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Moncton Researcher Studying Senior Drivers

Valerie McLaughlin, a doctoral student in psychology at the Université de Moncton is looking for senior drivers in New Brunswick to take part in a study she hopes will influence provincial policy on aging.

The study will focus on the driving habits of people aged 65 and older, looking closely at how their perceptions influence where and when they drive.

“So how comfortable people are in different situations during the day, during the night. Also how people assess their own driving abilities in different situations… let’s say making a left turn when there are no lights or driving in bad winter conditions.”

McLaughlin says she has always been interested in gerontology and this project was a suggestion by one of her professors.

“People don’t stop driving overnight,” she said in an interview Monday on Information Morning Moncton.

“They slowly start to adjust their behaviour and we’re hoping to capture some of that in this study.”

McLaughlin says it’s important to do a study like this in New Brunswick, where more than 50 per cent of the population lives rurally.

“In New Brunswick… that transport alternatives can be very limited in comparison to bigger centres like Toronto or Montreal and that’s where most of the studies have been conducted thus far.”

Research will contribute to policy on aging

McLaughlin says research shows that people who are more comfortable driving tend to drive more but she is wondering if that holds true in New Brunswick where seniors often don’t have any choice.

She points to a study by researchers at the University of New Brunswick in 2011 entitled, “Can Rural Older Drivers Meet Their Needs Without a Car?”

“What they found was that for 34 per cent of the trips that drivers 65 and older made they could not find any alternative arrangements… so it’s really important to understand the needs of older drivers and hopefully we’ll be able to provide useful information to decision makers.”

Mobility in old age relates directly to quality of life, and McLaughlin is hoping the information she gathers in this study will be used by the provincial government as it develops a policy on aging.

She is looking for 150 drivers to take part in the study over a two-week period.

All participants should be the primary driver of their vehicle and would need to spend one hour in a face-to-face interview, complete a driving log and a follow-up interview by telephone or e-mail.

“This is an opportunity to take part in a unique study aimed at better understanding the transportation needs of older drivers,” McLaughlin said.