Effectiveness of the compensatory strategy adopted by older drivers: Difference between professional and non-professional drivers

Tiantian Chen, N. N. Sze, Sharon Newnam, Lu Bai

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


It has been a controversial issue for the effect of ageing population on driving safety. Apparently, drivers’ physiological and cognitive performances deteriorate with age. However, older drivers may compensate for the elevated risk by adjusting their behaviors, known as compensatory strategy. Despite the extensive research on this topic, the compensatory strategy of older professional drivers is not well understood since many studies focused on the differences in compensatory behavior between older and young drivers. Professional drivers tend to be more skillful and able to cope with the unfavorable driving environments, thus presenting a higher capability to mitigate the risk. This study attempts to examine the compensatory behavior and its safety effect amongst older professional drivers, as compared to those of older non-professional drivers, using the driving simulator approach. In the driving simulator experiment, participants were asked to follow a leading vehicle for one hour, and two sudden brake events were presented. 41 (mid-aged and older) drivers completed the driving tests. Each participant was required to complete a car-following test, either under high or low traffic flow conditions. Performance indicators include driving capability (i.e. lateral control, longitudinal control, and brake reaction time) and compensatory behavior (i.e. average speed, and time headway). Additionally, two modified traffic conflict measures: time exposed time-to-collision (TET) and time integrated time-to-collision (TIT) are applied to indicate the traffic conflict risk. The random parameter Tobit models were estimated to measure the association between conflict risk and driver attributes, and random intercept models were used to assess other driving performance indicators. Results show that despite the impaired lateral control performance and longer brake reaction time of older drivers, the likelihood of severe traffic conflict of older drivers is lower than that of mid-aged drivers. Furthermore, though both older professional and older non-professional drivers adopted longer time headway, the reduction in the risk of severe traffic conflict is more profound among the older professional drivers. Such findings suggest that older professional drivers are more capable of mitigating the possible collision risk by adopting the compensatory strategy, as compared to older non-professional drivers. This justifies the existence of compound effect by the compensatory strategy of older driver and better driving skills of professional driver. This research provides useful insights into driver training and management strategies for employers, as older drivers would become a major cohort in the transportation industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-180
Number of pages13
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Compensatory strategy
  • Driver behavior
  • Driving simulator study
  • Older driver
  • Professional driver

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Applied Psychology


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