Published Papers - Abstract 30

Dobson AJ, Brown W, Ball J, Powers J & McFadden M. Women driver’s behaviour, socio-demographic characteristics and accidents. Accident, Analysis and Prevention, 1999; 31: 525-535

The purpose of this study was to examine factors which affect driving behaviour and accident rates in women in Australia. Two groups of women (aged 18-23 and 45-50 years) participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, completed a mailed questionnaire on driver behaviour and road accidents. Self reported accident rates in the last 3 years were 1.87 per 100 000 km for the young drivers (n = 1199) and 0.59 per 100 000 km for the mid-age drivers (n = 1564); most accidents involved damage only, not injury. Mean scores for lapses obtained using the Driver Behaviour Questionnaire, were similar in the two age groups and similar to those found in other studies. In contrast, scores for errors and violations for the young women were higher than for the mid-age group and previous reports using the same instruments. Riskier driving behaviour among young women was associated with stress and habitual alcohol consumption. In the mid-age group, poorer driver behaviour scores were related to higher levels of education, feeling rushed, higher habitual alcohol consumption and lower life satisfaction scores. Accident rates in both groups were significantly related to lapses. Women born in non-English speaking countries had significantly higher risk of accidents compared to Australian-born women: relative risk = 3.40, 95% confidence interval (1.93, 5.98) for the young drivers; relative risk = 1.77, 95% confidence interval (1.11, 2.83) for mid-age drivers. These findings support the need for road safety campaigns targeted at young women to reduce dangerous driving practices, such as speeding, 'tail gating' and overtaking on the inside. There is also a need for further research to understand how lifestyle characteristics are associated with higher risk of accidents and to explore factors which might account for the higher risk for women drivers who were born overseas.