The research behind CarFreeMe

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Becoming  “car free” often represents an important life change, one that is associated with social identity change and/or loss (Pachana and Jetten, 2015).  It is typically associated with many negative emotions and is associated with a decline in physical and mental well-being, and an increase in isolation (Fonda et al, 2001).

The CarFreeMe Program (formerly known as UQDrive) is a community-based education and support program, developed by experts at The University of Queensland, to improve outcomes for older people who retire from driving. The program utilises effective, research-based, client-centred methods to help older people manage driving cessation.  It has been demonstrated in a randomised controlled trial to increase community mobility and transport satisfaction in older adults following driving cessation (Liddle et al, 2014).

CarFreeMe has been developed in collaboration with the participants themselves since 2001. We surveyed them about their needs, and the approaches and resources they prefer to ensure the program runs successfully. Five themes came out of the survey, and all five themes have been taken into consideration whilst developing CarFreeMe:

  1. planning and preparation
  2. respect and control
  3. peers and experts
  4. content suggestions
  5. format suggestions

CarFreeMe is helping the participants in many ways:

  • owning their decision to stop driving
  • feeling more in control of planning
  • having a concrete plan
  • increasing confidence and comfort
  • still going wherever they want to go
What are the CarFreeMe principles?
Our principles are simple: be empowered, supported and understood.

Be empowered. We work around your lifestyle. You decide on what you want to get out of the workshops and we provide you with the knowledge and skills you need so you can get the best out of the program.

Be supported when you make your decision. For some people it just clicks to be car free. Others want to thoughtfully plan their car free life. And that’s totally fine. We will adapt the program to suit your needs.

Be understood. It is not just about your car. It is also about what your car means to you. It is normal that some of your family members and friends don’t understand where you are coming from. That is what the workshops are here for. It is a place and time you are with people who actually get you.

What is the theory behind CarFreeMe?
We understand that we all have different needs and different challenges at different phases when we think about not driving anymore.

The program draws on successful approaches that makes the workshops very practical. We have tested and improved CarFreeMe over time to make sure it is as useful as possible in your daily life.The key is for you to be confident in your decision and thoughtfully plan your options.

How effective is CarFreeMe?
The feedback from the participants about the CarFreeMe workshops has been very positive. At the beginning, we fear we won’t socialise and be active anymore if we don’t have a car. After the program, the participants got out of the house more and used other transports more. They still do the things they want to do and go where they want to go. When asked about how satisfied they were with the program, they rated CarFreeMe a 9.7/10. In their own words, the psychological, social supports and practical strategies are some of the most useful aspects of CarFreeMe. From a psychological point of view, group members say they feel more ready to make the right decision, at the right time.
Some academic publications

Scott, Theresa L., Liddle, Jacqueline, Sidhu, Raychelle, Mitchell, Geoffrey, Beattie, Elizabeth, Gustafsson, Louise and Pachana, Nancy A. (2020). Adaptation of the CarFreeMe driver retirement intervention to provide driving cessation support to older people living with dementia. Brain Impairment, 1-12. doi: 10.1017/brimp.2020.16

Scott, Theresa, Liddle, Jacki, Mitchell, Geoffrey, Beattie, Elizabeth and Pachana, Nancy (2019). Implementation and evaluation of a driving cessation intervention to improve community mobility and wellbeing outcomes for people living with dementia: study protocol of the ‘CarFreeMe’ for people with dementia program. BMC Geriatrics, 19 (1) 66, 66. doi: 10.1186/s12877-019-1074-6

George, Stacey, Barr, Christopher, Berndt, Angela, Crotty, Maria, Milte, Rachel, Nussio, Amy and Liddle, Jacki (2019). Community participation for people with trauma injuries: a study protocol of a crossover randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of a community mobility group intervention (CarFreeMe TI). Brain Impairment, 20 (1), 96-103. doi: 10.1017/BrImp.2019.1

Liddle, Jacki, Liu, Xinyu, Aplin, Tammy and Gustafsson, Louise (2015) The experiences of peer leaders in a driving cessation programme. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78 6: 383-390.

Liddle, Jacki, Reaston, Trisha, Pachana, Nancy, Mitchell, Geoffrey and Gustafsson, Louise (2014) Is planning for driving cessation critical for the well-being and lifestyle of older drivers?. International Psychogeriatrics, 26 7: 1111-1120.

Liddle, Jacki, Haynes, Michele, Pachana, Nancy A., Mitchell, Geoffrey, McKenna, Kryss and Gustafsson, Louise (2014) Effect of a group intervention to promote older adults’ adjustment to driving cessation on community mobility: a randomized controlled trial. Gerontologist, 54 3: 409-422.

Liddle, Jacki, Gustafsson, Louise, Bartlett, Helen and McKenna, Kryss (2012) Time use, role participation and life satisfaction of older people: impact of driving status. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 59 5: 384-392.

Gustafsson, Louise, Liddle, Jacki, Liang, Phyllis, Pachana, Nancy, Hoyle, Melanie, Mitchell, Geoff and McKenna, Kryss (2012) A driving cessation program to identify and improve transport and lifestyle issues of older retired and retiring drivers. International Psychogeriatrics, 24 5: 794-802.

Gustafsson, Louise A., Liddle, Jacki M., Lua, Shunwei, Hoyle, Melanie F., Pachana, Nancy A., Mitchell, Geoffrey K. and McKenna, Kryss T. (2011) Participant feedback and satisfaction with the UQDRIVE groups for driving cessation. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78 2: 110-117.

Meet our research team

Dr Jacki Liddle

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Dr Jacki Liddle is a postdoctoral research fellow and occupational therapist currently working with the Asia-Pacific Centre for Neuromodulation. She focuses her research on quality of life, wellbeing, time use, activity and role participation in people’s daily lives. Particularly, Jacki Liddle’s interests lies in life transitions related to ageing and people living with neurological conditions. Researching the experiences related to retirement from driving for older adults led to the development of the UQDRIVE program, now known as CarFreeMe. Contact Jacki to collaborate.


AProf. Louise Gustafsson

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Associate Professor Gustafsson is an occupational therapist and Head of the Occupational Therapy Programs at the University of Queensland. She has an established research priority in the area of occupational therapy for people with neurological conditions, including the promotion of people’s ability to live their lives to their fullest potential within their home and community. Joining the research team for the initial evaluation of CarFreeMe, she is continuing to work with the team to develop application to people with a range of conditions.


Prof. Nancy Pachana

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Professor Nancy Pachana is a clinical psychologist, professor in UQ’s School of Psychology, and neuropsychologist who has received extensive specialist training assessing and treating older adults. Her main research interests include anxiety in later life, early assessment of dementia and driving safety and dementia. Among her many influential roles, she is the National Convener of the Australian Psychological Society’s Psychology and Ageing Interest Group, dedicated to furthering research and public policy relating to older adults in Australia.


Prof. Geoffrey Mitchell

 Now in full time clinical practice

Geoffrey Mitchell is a former Professor of General Practice and Palliative Care, and former head of the University of Queensland’s MBBS Program at Ipswich. His main research interest was in the role of General Practitioners in palliative care. Most of former Professor Mitchell’s impact was in influencing the conduct of palliative care in the community. During his career, he had input into major policy initiatives at local, state and national levels and initiated the International Primary Palliative Care Network.


Dr Kryss McKenna

The CarFreeMe research team would like to acknowledge the work of the late Dr Kryss McKenna in the early development of the program.

Dr. McKenna was a Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. She had a longstanding clinical, teaching and research interest in client education and a strong commitment to the client-centred delivery of educational interventions.


Would you like to collaborate?
Does your organisation have a research strategy that aligns with CarFreeMe? Are you interested in funding further research? We’d love to collaborate.

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CarFreeMe is supported by UniQuest, the main commercialisation company of The University of Queensland