Older drivers more likely to crash when multitasking behind the wheel

Published 31 August 2018

Younger drivers are far less likely to lose control of a vehicle if distracted compared to older drivers, according to a recent study at Cologne University in Germany.

Researchers used a driving simulator to compare the reactions of a group of drivers aged 20 - 30 with a group of drivers aged 65 - 75 behind the wheel of a makeshift car on a 25-mile trip.

The study involved 124 regular drivers, in good physical and mental health. While seated in a simulated car, they were asked to follow another vehicle for 25 minutes.

During the journey, researchers asked the participants to complete driving tasks, answer questions through a headset, or enter a three-digit number into a keypad to simulate entering a post code into a sat nav.

"Older drivers are at a higher risk of causing an accident when they engage in a task that takes their gaze and attention away from the road."

Eighty per cent of the older group of drivers veered off the road and hit the kerb, compared with just 40 per cent in the younger group. Almost 20 per cent of the older motorists also accidentally crossed the central white line and drove into oncoming traffic. None of the younger group steered into the direction of oncoming cars.

"Our findings indicate that multitasking deteriorates in older age not only in typical laboratory paradigms, but also in paradigms that require orchestration of dual-tasking and task switching," lead researcher Konstantin WechslerWriting wrote in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

"They also indicate that older drivers are at a higher risk of causing an accident when they engage in a task that takes gaze and attention away from the road."

The study comes after Deborah Archer, an assistant coroner, called for motorists aged 80 and over to be mandatorily re-tested by the DVSA, as opposed to the current system of self-reporting.


TheGentlemanThug    on 31 August 2018

Not to stir up a hornet's nest, but for the most part at least, I'd have thought this would be obvious.

Personally, I think everyone should undergo a retest at various points in their driving career; perhaps once every five years. It's very easy to fall into bad habits.

Driving isn't a right, it's a skill, and it should be treated as such.

shauncwalsh    on 31 August 2018

But younger drivers are more likely to try to multitask because they have not yet learned the limits of their abilities.

Miniman777    on 31 August 2018

Younger drivers also have a far greater need to interact with social media or text on the move that older drivers. They can also be distracted by music and boisterous passengers. Agree they dont know the limits of their abilities, but are also lacking in roadcraft in general and the apreciation of the limits of their vehicles in certain road conditions/circumstances.

BMW Enthusiast    on 1 September 2018

You don't see very many older drivers with an iPhone in their hand updating their Facebook status whilst on the move!

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