SAFETY RESEARCH UNIT


The Psychotechnical Testing of the Elderly Professional Drivers in Turkey

 

ELDERLY
The Psychotechnical Testing of the Elderly Professional Drivers in Turkey

(COMPLETED)

Every year over 5000 people lose their lives in Turkish road traffic. More than half of the persons killed in traffic accidents are drivers or passengers of coaches or goods road vehicles. In other Southern European countries, the proportion of people killed in accidents involving a professional driver is much lower (e.g. 11% in Italy, 18% in Spain). In safer Western European countries, heavy vehicle and coach accidents cause much less casualties (e.g. UK 7%, Germany 5%). These figures show that especially professional drivers are a risky driver group in Turkey and safety interventions targeted at this group would result in considerable improvement in traffic safety. Analyses of road accidents indicate that human factors are a sole or contributory factor in approx. 90% of accidents. In addition to a stable and risk-avoiding personality and safe traffic attitudes, safe and efficient driving requires a professional driver to have adequately functioning perceptual-motor abilities. These cognitive abilities include accurate perception of traffic situations, fast information processing and decision-making abilities, and an ability to act appropriately. Several of these crucial abilities decline with increasing age, first symptoms occurring usually as early as in the age of fifty-five. Different neurological conditions or impairment of visual functions can lead to a remarkable decline in driving ability and increased accident risk. Since the deterioration in neuropsychological and visual functions occur gradually and only in certain conditions (e.g. when driving in darkness or in non-familiar road), even the driver himself is not aware of his condition and the impairment in driving ability is often observed too late. According to literature, elderly drivers are more frequently involved in fatal accidents and especially in intersection accidents than other driver groups. Unlike ordinary drivers, elderly professional drivers cannot avoid complex situations requiring simultaneous processing of several tasks. Therefore, it is crucial to assess elderly professional drivers’ cognitive and visual abilities regularly with adequate ability tests. The 1st objective of this project is to investigate how fit elderly Turkish professional drivers are to drive by testing drivers with selected vision and neuropsychological tests and psychological inventories. The 2nd objective is to investigate which vision and neuropsychological tests and psychological inventories (including safety attitudes and personality) predict elderly professional drivers’ driving errors, violations and accidents. The aim is to construct a test battery, which could be used in occupational health services for assessing professional drivers’ driving abilities. The 3rd objective is to develop a computerized test for measuring three basic components of driving and a “Short Driving Symptom Inventory” to detect possible problems in driving. The 4th objective is to start the process for establishing a driving ability clinic for assessing driving abilities of professional drivers and drivers with neuropsychological and vision problems. The 6th objective is to conduct a follow-up study for predicting possible decline in future work and driving abilities. The follow-up time would vary from 2 years to 10 years depending on the age of the drivers. The 6th objective is to investigate “safety culture” of the companies involved in the study and their policies for elderly drivers. In this study, fitness-to-drive of 200 older (50+) professional drivers will be assessed in a clinic. Assessment includes vision tests, neuropsychological tests, health survey, psychological inventories and driving related inventories and tests. Project will lead to at least five publications in scientific journals and conference presentations, and practical suggestions for testing of elderly (professional) drivers in Turkey. A test battery and assessment manual will be provided as project outcome.