Along with age-related factors, geographical settings—urban, suburban, and rural areas—also contribute to the differences in fatal crashes among older drivers. These differences in crash outcomes might be attributed to the various driving challenges faced by older drivers residing in different locations. To understand these challenges from the perspective of the older driver, a focus group study was conducted with drivers 65 and older from urban, suburban, and rural settings. Guided-group interviews were used to assess driving challenges, mobility options, opportunities for driver support systems (DSS), and alternate transportation needs. Content analysis of the interview responses resulted in four categories representing common challenges faced by older drivers across the settings: behavior of other drivers on the road, placement of road signs, reduced visibility of road signs due to age-related decline, and difficulties using in-vehicle technologies. Six categories involved location-specific challenges such as heavy traffic situations for urban and suburban drivers, and multi-destination trips for rural drivers. Countermeasures implemented by older drivers to address these challenges primarily involved route selection and avoidance. Technological advances of DSS systems provide a unique opportunity to support the information needs for route selection and avoidance preferences of drivers. Using the content analysis results, a framework was built to determine additional and modified DSS features to meet the specific challenges of older drivers in urban, suburban, and rural settings. These findings suggest that there is heterogeneity in the driving challenges and preferences of older drivers based on their location. Consequently, DSS technologies and vehicle automation need to be tailored to not only meet the driving safety and mobility needs of older drivers as a population, but also to their driving environment.
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