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Follow-up Study Finds Older Drivers Retain Safe-driver Training

A press release issued by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society spotlights a study by Research Professor Matthew Romoser of the Arbella Human Performance Laboratory in our Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department. His new study shows that healthy older drivers, 70 to 89 years of age, retained safe-driver training two years after taking a driver behavior-modification course at the laboratory in 2009. The 2009 training emphasized safe road-scanning conduct at intersections by retraining older drivers to take secondary looks at the cross traffic coming from both directions. As the release notes, “Two years after their training, older drivers in the trained group still took secondary looks on average 73 percent of the time, more than one and a half times as often as pre-training levels.” Read release: https://www.hfes.org/web/DetailNews.aspx?Id=303.

The release adds that “Control group drivers, who averaged secondary looks 41 percent of the time, saw no significant change in performance over the two-year period.”

The new study, entitled “The Long-Term Effects of Active Training Strategies on Improving Older Drivers’ Scanning in Intersections: A Two Year Follow-up to Romoser and Fisher (2009),” was featured in Human Factors, the journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Romoser preformed the 2009 study with Donald Fisher, director of the Arbella Human Performance Laboratory and head of the MIE department.

The 2009 study of the older drivers gave them training on the laboratory’s driving simulator and a video review of their performance; exercises which, according to the release, “increased their likelihood of scanning while negotiating an intersection by 100 percent.”  

Researchers recorded secondary looks, defined as “looking away from the immediate path of the vehicle while entering intersections toward regions to the side from which other vehicles could appear,” using a head-mounted camera system.

As the new study indicates, two years after their training, older drivers in the trained group still took secondary looks almost 75 percent of the time, while drivers in the control group without the training were still stuck at around 40 percent of the time.

As the Human Factors release concludes, “In seeming contrast to the notion that the elderly often have memory problems, a new study from an HF/E researcher finds driver retraining to be an effective strategy for improving the safe-driving habits of older drivers over the long term.”

“Training in the form of actively practicing target skills in a simulator provides drivers a means by which to reincorporate previously extinguished behaviors into their driving habits,” explains Remoser.

Human Factors is the flagship journal of the field and has been published for over 50 years. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is the world's largest nonprofit individual-member, multidisciplinary scientific association for human factors/ergonomics professionals, with more than 4,600 members globally. HFES members include psychologists and other scientists, designers, and engineers, all of whom have a common interest in designing systems and equipment to be safe and effective for the people who operate and maintain them. (May 2013)