Who Drives faster, older men or older women?
Driving allows us to get to and from many places. As people age, they may experience cognitive decline, which can impact their ability to drive. Driving safety is of the utmost importance, as safe driving protects the driver themself but also other drivers on the road. Researchers are interested in better understanding factors that may influence risky driving behaviors, such as speeding. Three factors of interest are cognition, age, and gender. Studies have shown gender differences in risk-taking behavior, demonstrating that men are more likely than women to engage in risky behavior. Due to age-related brain changes, older adults may be more likely to experience cognitive problems, which can cause them to engage in risky driving behaviors like speeding. This blog post discusses the impact of cognition and gender on speeding behavior in older drivers with and without suspected mild cognitive impairment.
Feng et al. (2021) studied a total of 71 drivers: 36 older adults without cognitive impairment and 35 adults with mild cognitive impairment as assessed by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCa). The study aimed to examine the relationship between speeding events and cognitive status between older male and female drivers. Drivers were studied for two weeks while their cars were outfitted with a device that recorded their natural driving behavior. In addition to driving data, researchers collected information regarding activities of daily living, socio-demographics, cognitive functioning, and vision.
During the study, Feng et al. (2021) recorded 23 speeding incidents from 13 participants. 19 of the incidents involved males where the speed limit for the road ranged from 60-70 km/h. The speeding incidents occurred largely in suburban areas, where cyclists and pedestrians are likely to be present. Mild cognitive impairment as assessed by the MoCa was significantly correlated with speeding in older males. However, this was not the case for older female drivers. Studies have previously found that older female drivers engage in more self-regulatory behavior, which results in many older female drivers driving under the speed limit. Driving under the speed limit in certain driving areas may be dangerous, as faster drivers may not be able to slow down in time to avoid an accident. To better understand driving behavior across the sexes, future research should also look at driving below the speed limit to understand better-driving behavior in older adults with and without cognitive impairment.
For cognition, there was a significant correlation between suspected mild cognitive impairment as assessed by the MoCa and the rate of speeding in older male drivers. Previous research studies have used older samples (drivers aged 75+) and have not found a relation to speeding. This could be due to older drivers driving at slower speeds than younger drivers due to physical and cognitive changes related to aging.
What Does This Mean?
Older males are more likely to speed than older females. Previous studies have shown that older drivers are less likely to monitor their speed as they are driving, and that older adults may drive slower due to having slower reflexes and reaction time associated with normal aging. If you are working with older adults, you may want to inquire about their driving and ensure they are aware of safe driving practices. You may also want to work with your older adult clients on processing speed, executive functioning, attention, visual-spatial skills, and working memory, as these are all important cognitive functions that are utilized while driving.
In a study conducted on 71 older adults with and without mild cognitive impairment, it was found that older males with suspected cognitive impairment are more likely to speed than older adult males without suspected cognitive impairment and older adult females. To better understand driving behavior in older adults, future research is needed to understand when older adults drive below speed limits, as this is a common behavior in older adult females and older adults aged 75+. If you are working with older adult clients, you may want to make sure that they are aware of and engage in safe driving practices. In addition, you may want to work with them on processing speed, executive functioning, attention, visual-spatial skills, and working memory, as these are all important cognitive functions that are utilized while driving.