When older drivers self-regulate, they modify or adjust their driving pattern by driving less or intentionally avoiding challenging situations in response to declining abilities. Self- regulation is one way to help older drivers maintain independence and extend the period over which they can safely drive. Older drivers use self-regulation to compensate for declining health or loss of functional abilities that can compromise driving.
Older drivers adapt and compensate for functional changes. This is supported by the fact that age-related changes in perceptual cognitive and motor performances occur gradually over their life-span. Therefore, the older driver makes the appropriate stage adjustments in order to maintain a similar level of performance.
The advantage to older drivers self-regulating lessens the burden on society to intervene with them, as a group. For example, voluntary self-restriction by older drivers could lessen the need for mandatory restrictions by licensing agencies such as prohibiting driving at night, during rush hour, on major highways, or long distances from home.
Being aware of their declining abilities is a necessary first step for older drivers to start self-regulation. Older drivers’ self-perceptions about their abilities directly influence their decisions to self-monitor their driving capacity. Some older drivers, who sense changes in their ability and capacity to drive safely, elect to shorten their driving distance, drive more slowly, decrease their night and highway driving, avoiding driving in the rain, decreasing the time they spend on the road and avoiding rush hour periods. These drivers use self-regulation strategies based on location, time of day, weather and the types of roads to drive on to maintain their independence in driving.
For older drivers, driving continues to be a symbol and means of freedom and independence. It is not unreasonable to expect that these drivers continue to drive as long as physically and/or mentally possible. Self-regulation is a method older drivers can adopt to self-monitor their condition and make the necessary adjustments to continue to drive safely.