Assessment of driver fitness and driver testing

Driver testing is normally done by testing how well someone drives a car during the driver licencing procedure when the driver is at young age.  This happens after an often long training during which the driver learns to drive a car safely. However, after brain injury, a stroke, or at old age it may become unsafe to continue driving and the question again rises if the driver is still fit to drive. The strange thing is that then this question is not answered by letting the driver perform a driver test but by filling out a questionnaire and maybe check the eyes, ears and a urine sample.

But existing tests for medical fitness to drive are not very predictive of safe driving. Safe driving is all about driving behaviour and the relation between these existing test procedures and behaviour is often lacking. This results in:

  • letting people pass the tests while in reality they are not safe drivers at all
  • depriving safe drivers unjustly of their driving licences

In the first case road safety is reduced while in the second case people are deprived of their mobility.

As an alternative it would be better if fitness to drive is assessed via standardized tests of driving-related skills. Assessment of fitness to drive differs from initial driver tetsing or youg people in 2 respects:

  • at older age, the driver already has extensive driving experience and does not need to learn to drive
  • at older age, the driver knows the traffic rules.

But their driving related skills may have deteriorated. Their information processing speed may have been reduced and because their capacilty may be reduced they may have started to use strategies to reduce the amount of information, for example by driving at a lower speed, of my reducing the time pressure, for example by giving themselves more time to peform a driving task or by avoiding situations with higher load. Examples are driving at daytime and avoiding rush hours, or only driving on familiar routes.

In a car driving simulator, test procedures can easily be standardized and reliable tst procedures can be developed for the assessment of fitness to drive.

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