Four focus groups were conducted with older drivers to better understand the perceptions and concerns that they may have about participating in future NHTSA-sponsored studies where they would be asked to: (1) disclose their usage of prescription and over-the-counter medications; and (2) participate in an assessment of their driving abilities. These focus groups were intended to explore a variety of methods by which each of the above two phases of future research might be accomplished. Although focus groups are not statistically representative of the demographic groups from which the panelists are drawn, they provide other analytical advantages that are worthwhile, including creation, validation, or dismissal of working hypotheses concerning the objectives being studied.
Focus group panelists were queried to determine:
During the month of December 2005, four 2-hour focus groups were conducted by a project consultant3 , who is a professional focus group moderator. Two focus groups each were conducted in the vicinity of Tampa, FL and Philadelphia, PA, at professional facilities with their own staff and equipment dedicated to focus group support (one-way mirror observation rooms, recording equipment, etc.).
Roughly equal numbers of male and female drivers were recruited by focus group facility staff, with at least 25 percent minority participation. At the Pennsylvania site, recruitment of African-American participants was emphasized, without excluding other minorities, and in Florida, recruitment of Hispanic-Latino participants was emphasized. All participants were compensated according to local market conditions.
On average, each focus group consisted of ten panelists. The groups were divided according to age; at each site there was one group of panelists age 55 to 69 and one group of panelists age 70 to 85. All panelists held a valid driver's license, stated that they drive on a regular basis (at least 5 trips per week), and use a variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications on a regular basis. Appendix H presents the “screener” developed by project staff that was used for subject recruitment.
The focus group discussion guide is presented in Appendix I. The protocol for the groups is summarized below. The moderator spent the first 10 minutes introducing himself and the research topic, and provided assurance to the panelists that he was an independent moderator, that they would not be asked to disclose anything that makes them uncomfortable, and that their driving privilege would not be affected in any way as a result of their participation in the discussion. He then asked participants to briefly introduce themselves, and then engaged them in a warm-up topic for approximately 15 minutes about how driving may have changed for them over the past few decades, before delving into discussions about their preferred methodologies for identifying medication use and measuring driving performance.
Methods of Identifying Medication Use
For the first topic of interest—methods of determining what medications older people take—the moderator spent 30 minutes generating discussion and feedback from participants about their willingness to participate in research, based on which of 14 different potential methods of collecting medication data are used. These are listed below.
Following the discussion of the pros and cons of the various methods of collecting data about medication use, participants spent 20 minutes completing a card-sorting task. For this task, participants were given a stack of 14 cards, each describing one of the 14 methods. Participants were asked to sort the cards into two piles: a “bad pile” containing cards with the methods they find unacceptable, and a “good pile” containing cards describing methods with which they would be comfortable as research participants. They were then asked to draw an “X” through each of the cards in the “bad pile,” and to rank-order the methods in the “good pile” from most preferred (rank of 1) to least preferred.
Methods of Measuring Driving Performance
For the second topic of interest—methods of measuring driving performance—the moderator spent 20 minutes generating discussion and feedback from participants about their willingness to participate in research using 6 potential methods assessing driving performance. The 6 methods are listed below:
Following the discussion of the pros and cons of the various methods of assessing driving performance, participants spent 10 minutes completing the same type of card-sorting task described above, for the 6 methods.
Concerns about Participating in Future Research and Research Incentives
The focus groups closed with a 10-minute discussion to highlight the biggest concerns older drivers may feel about participating in future research studies, where they would be asked to disclose their medication use and have their driving skills assessed. Other points of discussion included the kinds of assurances of confidentiality that would be needed and the kinds of incentives/compensation that could increase the likelihood of participation in future studies of this nature.