, Fmr Director, HumanFIRST, Mechanical Engineering
Nic Ward, Former U of M Researcher, Mechanical Engineering
A 2002 National Safety Council report indicates that road traffic injuries are the most common cause of death in the United States for all age groups up to 75 years, with the rate of fatal crashes higher in rural areas. On a state and national level, two distinct demographic groups emerge with the highest risk of traffic fatalities: teen drivers (under 20 years old) and older drivers (age 65 and above). To significantly reduce traffic fatalities, it is necessary to implement traffic safety interventions designed to target each of these high-risk groups. The purpose of this project was to explore beliefs and attitudes about risky driving behavior and traffic safety interventions between urban and rural drivers as a function of age. The study employed focus groups and a structured questionnaire administered to each age group of at-risk drivers. Results indicated that traffic safety policy should focus on distraction for teens and sensory-motor functioning amongst seniors. Regarding traffic safety policy for rural areas, attention should be given to promoting seatbelt compliance. For traffic safety interventions, teens felt graduated driver licensing (GDL) helped them become better drivers but weren't convinced it made them safer. Teen felt smart technology could have positive effects on safety, but an acceptable program based on this technology must balance factors such as cost, robustness, and limitations on driving. Seniors were receptive to mandatory testing but felt it must be flexible, objectively administered, and based on criteria other than age. Rural seniors were concerned about alternative mobility programs for those drivers that fail the proposed test. Seniors' acceptance was related to the perceived accessibility to a safe and affordable program that is sufficiently versatile to accommodate a range of transportation needs. The data obtained from this study can be employed to support recommendations for the type and form of interventions likely to be most effective and acceptable within each risk group and community area.