A scheme operated by Dorset County Council is successfully delivering its objectives of improving the driving skills and confidence of the county’s older drivers, according to evaluation carried out by Warwick University.
Dorset County Council has been delivering an older driver programme for 20 years and has carried out in-house evaluations of its effectiveness several times in the past, amending content and delivery each time.
The last evaluation, in 2013, resulted in a major change in approach to focus on the very oldest group of drivers (75+) with specific coaching on certain cognitive and physical driving skills that are known to decline through the ageing process.
Subsequent to this, Dr Carol Hawley from Warwick University was commissioned to undertake a robust evaluation of the new scheme, Dorset Driver Gold (DDG), with 150 older driver volunteers aged between 75 and 91 years.
The evaluation, which took 18 months to complete, found that DDG is “achieving its objectives of successfully training a group of senior drivers and improving their driving skills and confidence as drivers”.
While it was not possible to measure any impact on road safety, most participants felt that they were better or safer drivers as a result of the on-road driving refresher sessions – and nearly all said that they would make changes to their driving as a result of the course.
However, the drivers who volunteered for DDG were not typical of all older drivers. While some clearly needed refresher training, several others were already confident and competent drivers who were aware of the importance of road safety and keen to have formal confirmation that they are good drivers.
It was noted that more ‘young’ senior drivers volunteered for the DDG than ‘older’ drivers. In future, the evaluation recommends that the scheme should be aimed at drivers aged 80 years and over, which is also the age when collision rates begin to rise.
Robert Smith, Dorset’s road safety team leader, said: “This has been one of the most rewarding road safety research projects I’ve ever been involved with in my 24 years in the (road safety) profession.
“The enthusiasm, commitment and willingness of this large volunteer group of the very oldest and most experienced motorists in Dorset to acknowledge and correct bad habits and errors was heartening to witness.
“To hear so many comments they make about the positive impact the project has had on their driving confidence and ability over the past 18 months, and the professionalism of those involved in its development and delivery, is what makes this job so interesting and enjoyable.”
The evaluation report is available for download from the Dorset Driver Gold web pages.