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Channel 22 Covers Driving Research

On November 30, WWLP-TV 22 covered some more of the news-making research being done in the Human Performance Laboratory, with this spot focusing on how to retrain older drivers who have begun to lose some of their driving skills. Matthew Romoser, a senior research scientist in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, said that, as drivers get older, some of them have more difficulty in driving safely, but training can help them make up for lost skills and remind them what is required to prevent accidents. On December 10, the lab will be renamed the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory in honor of a large grant that supports this kind of research.

Here is a transcript of the TV spot:

There have been two accidents over the past three days with an elderly driver at the wheel. One was deadly, and both were disastrous. Dr. Matthew Romoser is a research scientist of elderly drivers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He’s worked to develop ways to help older drivers as well as other drivers on the road because as we’ve seen sometimes older drivers can put others at risk.

Dr. Romoser said, “Behaviors reinforced by the fact that other drivers around them have to compensate the ways they’re driving to accommodate the older driver going through the intersection.”

He says as we age, we slow down and simplify tasks. So when older people drive they slowly forget to do common steps. Elderly drivers tend to not scan from side to side, so a simulator at the research lab allows them to practice that skill without being out on the road. Dr. Romoser told us crash statistics show after the age of 70 you see a spike in side impact crashes. But that’s not to say that anyone over the age of 70 can’t be on the road.

Dr. Romoser said, “Drivers who are over 90 who are still perfectly capable of driving, on the same token you see drivers who are in their late 60’s maybe early 70’s who are really struggling with maintaining their car on the road. This training allows drivers to become aware of what skills they’re losing."

Dr. Romoser said after acknowledging what elderly drivers are lacking, the researchers are able to try and fix the problem. Still, not every driver can be retrained to fix their driving risks, but this research is working to help drivers instead of just automatically taking them off of the road. (December 2010)