Formal Courses for Older Drivers (Classroom + On-Road Feedback)
Formal courses specifically for older drivers have historically been offered by organizations including AAA, AARP, and the National Safety Council, either independently or under accreditation by States (Potts et al., 2004; TRB, 2005). The courses typically involve 6 to 10 hours of classroom-based training in basic safe driving practices and in how to adjust driving to accommodate age-related cognitive and physical changes. A relatively new course, the Smart DriverTEK course, offered by AARP, educates drivers on the safety features and technologies in their vehicles (Donahue, 2018). The course is delivered as short-duration workshops, either in-person or online, and includes material on technologies such as smart headlights, reverse camera systems, collision and proximity warning (e.g., blind spot, lane departure, and forward collision), and post-crash emergency (also known as automatic crash or advanced automatic crash) notification systems.
Courses combining classroom and on-the-road instruction have been offered in a few locations (Potts et al., 2004) but are not available on a wide scale. Sangrar et al. (2019) completed a systematic review of older driver training programs and concluded that interventions including a tailored or individualized approach to providing feedback and training can improve both self-perceptions of driving and on-road performance. While there is a growing body of evidence that classroom-based trainings paired with individualized on-road training can improve driving performance, there are few programs within the United States that offer courses of this nature.
Courses are taught in all States, but most do not include an individualized feedback component that has been demonstrated as effective at improving driving performance.
Courses that combine classroom-based education with individualized on-road training show promising outcomes. Marottoli (2007) concluded that a training program combining classroom education with on-road training improved the performance of older drivers on written and on-road tests and may allow these drivers to retain their licenses longer, but Marottoli did not attempt to assess the program’s impact on subsequent crash rates. Bedard et al. (2008) concluded that an in-class education program coupled with on-road education led to improvements in the participants’ knowledge of safe driving practices and improvements on some aspects of safe driving performance, but further research is required to determine if these changes will affect crash rates. The value of physical training in addition to education is reinforced by research results by Romoser and Fisher (2009). They found that active training, such as practice with feedback, is a more effective strategy for increasing older drivers’ likelihood of side-to-side scanning for threats than is passive training (classroom lecture or video only) or no training. Similarly, several international studies have found that individualized feedback results in a decrease in critical errors and unsafe driving actions (Anstey et al., 2018; Gagnon et al., 2019; Sawula et al., 2018; Shimada et al., 2018). While these studies do not assess crash rates or follow participants long term, the results support the conclusion that classroom-based interventions can improve driver safety when paired with tailored feedback.
Korner-Bitensky et al. (2009) conducted a review of articles published from 2004 to 2008 on the effectiveness of older driver retraining programs for improving driving skills and reducing crash rates. Four studies met the inclusion criteria for the review and provided strong evidence that education combined with on-road training improves driving performance. They also found moderate evidence that education alone is not effective in reducing crashes but when combined with physical retraining, does improve driving performance. Sangrar et al. (2019) conducted a comprehensive literature review to determine if older driver training programs affect road safety knowledge, self-perception of skills, and objective measures of driving performance. They found that approaches that included tailored feedback can change self-perception of driving and improve on-road performance. They conclude that future research should investigate the long-term effects of these programs. Simulators provide an alternative method of individualized training that has been explored in recent years. Research has found that simulator-based training has positive effects on subsequent simulator drives, with drivers improving on specific measures of driving behavior (Cuenen et al., 2019; Urlings et al., 2019). However, these studies did not measure whether the changes were demonstrated in the real driving environment. Additionally, simulator-based training poses a particular challenge with older drivers as simulator sickness is more prevalent in older adults (Keshavarz et al., 2018).
Courses that include an on-road component in addition to a classroom component would incur considerable costs, as the very mechanism that is most likely to improve outcomes (individualized feedback) is time and labor intensive.
Time to implement:
The individualized feedback component of these courses is time intensive to implement. The closest, large-scale model of individualized on-road feedback is the driver’s education system. While this model can provide some insights into implementation of classroom and on-road feedback, the driver’s education model likely involves more hours in both a classroom setting and behind the wheel than what would be required for an older driver program of this nature.