Older Drivers’ Acceptance of In-vehicle Systems and the Effect it has on Safety

Drivers over the age of 65 make up the fastest growing segment of the driving population and are, in general, underrepresented in vehicle crashes due to their self-restrictive driving habits. However, as the baby-boomer generation ages into the population of older drivers, the presence of in-vehicle systems designed to counteract the physical and psychological changes of aging, could change their habits. Using a literature review to identify systems, effects of aging, and crash statistics of older drivers, various in-vehicle system types were identified and rated for their potential to mitigate the effects of aging on driving performance and behavior. Focus groups were then held with two age groups of older drivers (55-64 and 65-75) to assess their acceptance of four different systems identified by the literature review. The older driver age range for this project (55-75) was selected to represent the youngest age that the American Association of Retired Persons considers to be an older driver (lower bound), and for convenience purposes in recruiting (upper bound). Animations demonstrating each system in action were generated using a driving simulator then video recorded. The demonstration videos were shown during the focus groups. Qualitative data about participant opinions regarding the safety systems from the focus groups were gathered and analyzed for common themes, which were factored into a final in-vehicle system matrix. The matrix rates the benefits of each system type in regards to older drivers based on the generalized ability of the system type to counteract the effects of aging, and on older drivers’ acceptance of the system. In the matrix, in-vehicle systems that alert drivers to potential hazards (e.g., a forward collision warning system) resulted in the highest safety rating while systems that facilitated a driver’s ability to control the vehicle (e.g., an anti-lock braking system) had the lowest safety rating. Overall, the younger age groups of older drivers were more trusting of the x various safety systems and felt that drivers their age would want the various systems compared to the older age groups. In contrast, the 65-75 year olds were less anxious and less concerned about becoming overly reliant on the different systems compared to the 55-64 year olds.

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