Driving is a particularly important daily activity for older people, as it increases their mobility, autonomy and social participation. However, older drivers are one of the most vulnerable groups of drivers, with increased risk, liability and severity of road crashes. According to the European Road Safety Observatory, more than 6,500 older people die in road crashes every year in the EU. While overall road fatalities have been decreasing over the last decade, the proportion of older people’s deaths in these crashes tends to increase (European Commission, 2017).

Driving is a complex activity that requires a combination of motor and mental skills. Impairment in many cognitive functions critical for driving (e.g. memory, attention, visuospatial perception, executive functions), whether due to normal ageing, a neurological condition (e.g. mild cognitive decline, mild dementia, etc.) or related medication, can significantly affect driving ability.

The aim of the proposed post-doctoral research is to create an innovative tool for assessing the driving ability of elderly drivers, which will classify elderly drivers according to their ability (or not) to drive safely and suggest appropriate measures, thus facilitating and supporting the decision makers of the Ministry of Transport, and other stakeholders, in the currently unclear decision making processes regarding the renewal or not of driving licences for elderly drivers.

In order to achieve the above objective, a system for recording and assessing the driving behaviour of older people will be developed and implemented using driving data collected via mobile phones. An on-road driving experiment will be carried out using large-scale mass data (big data) collected through a mobile phone application. The experimental procedure will be supported by OSeven, which will provide the application as well as the unprocessed – primary data.

For the purposes of this post-doctoral research, 100 older active drivers (over 60 years old) will take part in a real driving experiment in real conditions, on a specific route, which will include road sections in and outside the urban area in the region of Attica. The data that will be collected are: a) objective driving data that will be continuously recorded while driving through the OSeven application, which records a multitude of driving behaviour parameters every second of driving and b) driving behaviour evaluation by a certified evaluator of safe driving behaviour through a specific form (checklist). The mass data that will be collected will be processed using appropriate algorithm development methods in Python programming language. Subsequently, a series of different families of statistical analyses will take place which aim to both analyse the influence of advanced age and other factors on driving behaviour parameters but more importantly to quantify the influence on unobserved variables that better represent the overall driving behaviour.

The benefits of the proposed postdoctoral research will be both scientific and socio-economic. The final results of the proposal are a toolkit for assessing and potentially improving the driving ability and safety of older drivers:

  1. A comprehensive protocol for assessing the driving competence and safety of older drivers, and specific indicators of driving behaviour and safety.
  2. A system and related applications for recording real driving data from mobile phones oriented to elderly drivers.