Assessing Methods of Enhancing Older Driver Performance

Assessing Methods of Enhancing Older Driver Performance

Older individuals represent the fastest growing portion of the population in the United States. This, coupled with the debilitating effects of the loss of independence, makes reduced driving or driving cessation due to aging a great concern for both these individuals as well as society as a whole. Thus, it is no surprise that as people age there is a growing fear of losing a driver’s license. In fact, concern over loss of driving independence is ranked almost as important as concerns with decline in overall cognitive functioning. Much of the work done on mitigating problem drivers has focused on states’ implementation of more frequent testing or older drivers’ education and rehabilitation. These approaches, however, are neither sensitive to the gradual onset of cognitive deficits nor make marked improvements in older driver public safety or provide sizable increases in independence. However, with the recent advent and promotion of cognitive training programs, older individuals are tempted with the prospect of improving not just cognition or driving ability, but both. The current study intends to bridge two areas of research: psychological intervention in cognitive decline and transportation safety. While there has been some research on methods such as UFOV training, these efforts are far from comprehensive and do not consider established non-subjective measures of driving performance in situ. Existing research has shown that: 1) older individuals can improve their visual attention as measured by neuropsychological test measures; and 2) older drivers’ cognitive deficits are a detriment to their ability to drive safely. Past research on the intervention side has been limited to measures of improvement that have limited ecological validity. The proposed research aims to assess the transfer effects of cognitive training aimed at improving visual attention to older drivers’ visual attention allocation while driving an instrumented vehicle.

 

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