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OLDER DRIVER RESOURCE NEEDS


 

Overview

Information was collected by 3 professional organizations to understand unmet needs for information resources among professionals who work with older drivers and their families. Feedback was solicited by conference organizers from participants at: Rx for Safe Driving held on November 9, 1995 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and organized by The Pennsylvania State University, Geriatric Education Center; International Symposium on Alzheimer's Disease and Driving held on May 17–18, 1996 in St. Louis, Missouri, and organized by Washington University School of Medicine, Office of Continuing Medical Education; and Annual Meetings of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) held April 19–23, 1996 in Chicago, Illinois, and organized by AOTA.

 

Method

Conference organizers placed a 2–page, self–administered needs assessment questionnaire in participants' conference packages. Participants were urged by session leaders to complete and return their responses. A total of 119 participants responded to the questionnaire. Over half of the respondents were recruited at the Rx for Safe Driving Conference in Harrisburg, PA. Two–fifths (40%) are rehabilitation specialists (primarily occupational therapists) and approximately one–third (30%) include other health and service providers (largely physicians but also nurses, psychologists, social workers, eye specialists and social service professionals). Other respondents include researchers, highway traffic safety specialists, students, and law enforcement officials.

Participants from the Harrisburg conference included a more heterogeneous mix of professionals than the other two conferences. Not surprising, respondents from the Chicago AOTA meeting are heavily comprised of occupational therapists, while physicians, nurses, social workers and psychologists predominate among respondents from the St. Louis conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Driving.

Those who completed the questionnaire probably represent a distinct group. Given their attendance at a conference that addresses older driver safety, the respondents are probably more concerned, aware and/or knowledgeable about this subject than their professional peers, which may limit the generalizability of their responses.

 

Summary of Findings: Older Driver Resource Needs

Information Resources

Respondents were asked to identify sources that informed them of their professional role and responsibilities in promoting older driver safety. Over 90% of respondents identified at least one information source. The average respondent had access to two different types of sources.

Overall, the two most frequently cited sources of information are state motor vehicle departments and professional/trade journals (selected by 42.9% and 40.3% of respondents, respectively). The value that specific information sources have for respondents differs depending upon their professional background. Professional societies and associations are more important than state motor vehicle departments for rehabilitation specialists and predominant over journals for respondents in the “other professional” category.

Although older driver safety is an important public health issue, state health departments are the least identified source of information. Opportunities should be created for enlisting their participation in the future.

Professional Needs

Respondents were asked their opinions on the topics about which their colleagues would most benefit from having additional information. The data suggest that serious voids exist among professionals in the information they have on even their basic roles and responsibilities vis–a–vis the older driver. The greatest need is expressed for information on regulations and procedures for reporting potentially unsafe drivers. This need is particularly strong among respondents in the medical/health care and service provider fields: 83% of rehabilitation specialists and 74% of health and other service providers identified this as one of the three most important areas in which colleagues need additional information.

Respondents also expressed a strong need for information on aids and strategies to correct or mitigate health conditions that adversely impact driving. Regardless of professional background, this issue was selected by at least half of the respondents. Rehabilitation specialists and others in the health and social service sectors also include liability considerations in reporting as one of the three most important topics about which colleagues need additional information. Among “other professionals,” a more urgent need is expressed for information on older adult involvement in collisions.

Format for Professional Information

For each area of professional information that is needed, respondents were requested to indicate the format in which they preferred receiving the information. A clear preference exists for fact sheets. Next most desirable are conferences and continuing education programs for “health and other service providers” and reference materials and manuals for rehabilitation specialists and “other professionals.”

Although journal articles are identified as a relatively popular method for communicating with “health and other service providers,” they are a less attractive delivery method for rehabilitation specialists and “other professionals.” And while audio tapes, computer on–line services and PSA's are commonly used communication channels, they are relatively rarely mentioned by respondents.

For any given topic on which they would like to receive additional information, respondents usually identified several suggested format styles. However, overall their responses suggest that top priority be given to developing the following professional resources:

• Rehabilitation specialists: fact sheets on reporting regulations and procedures, and conferences and continuing education programs on aids and strategies.

• Health and other service providers: reference manual on reporting regulations and procedures and fact sheets on liability considerations.

• Other professionals: fact sheets on older driver collisions and aids and strategies for safely driving.

Family and Friend Needs

Respondents were asked to identify concerns or problems expressed to them by older adults or their families or friends for which they would like to have resource materials to share. Overall, the strongest demand is reported for information on aging and traffic safety. This includes tips on identifying warning signs of impaired driving, how to maintain driving skills, and precautions for older drivers. This information would be especially helpful for “health and other service providers” and “other professionals” to share with older adults or their families and friends. Also of importance are materials on laws and regulations, especially as related to reporting procedures, driver licensing evaluation and licensing options. Information and guidelines for family and friends' involvement with older problem drivers are also needed, particularly by “health and other service providers” and “other professionals”. These materials should address the concerns that family and friends have about older drivers, and strategies they can use to get their older relation to alter or stop driving.

Format for Family and Friend Resources

Opinions were solicited from respondents on the formats that would be most successful in communicating with older adults and their families and friends. Regardless of professional background, a preference exists for pamphlets and brochures, followed by fact sheets and videos. Only occasional references were made to other delivery mechanisms, including audio tapes, presentations and computer–based communications.

Reporting

Respondents were queried as to the frequency in which they ever reported a person over 65 years of age to a state authority for review of driving qualifications and whether their report was ever initiated by a concerned relative or friend.

Overall, close to 30% of respondents indicated they had reported an older person to state authorities, although the actual frequency of reporting is low and usually ranges from 1–5 older persons. As expected, “health and other service providers” are most likely to have reported an older individual (40% as compared to 32% of rehabilitation specialists and only 4% of other professionals).

Of significance, family and friends are highly influential in initiating reports. Overall, close to two–in–three respondents with reporting experience indicate that their report was initiated by concerned family or friends on at least one occasion. “Health and other service providers” are especially likely to be influenced by family or friends: over 75% of “health and other service providers” with reporting experience indicate that their report was initiated by concerned family or friends on at least one occasion.

Professional Alliances and Referral Resources

Respondents were questioned about professional alliances or referral resources they use or need in working with impaired older drivers. Responses fall within five general categories. In descending order these include: driver evaluation, professional agencies/organizations, health providers, professional societies/associations, and “other.”

Of the professional agencies and organizations that are identified, state motor vehicle and transportation departments are cited most frequently. And of health providers, physicians are mentioned most. Professional societies and associations that are identified with greatest frequency are AARP (including the 55 Alive program), the Association for Driver Educators for the Disabled, and the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Professional alliances and referral resources differed for respondents depending upon their professional status, although driver evaluators were considered a priority ally/resource by rehabilitation specialists as well as other health care and service providers. Other professionals most often used or needed the support of professional agencies/organizations in their work with impaired older drivers.

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