Computer training program for seniors can reduce hazardous driving

Recent proof-of-concept research has shown that older adults can be safer drivers by taking a low-cost training course. The researchers hope that the findings will encourage more training.Jing Yuan, a North Carolina State University Ph.D student and first author of the study, said that "on-road training and simulator programs have been effective at reducing car accidents with older drivers -- with benefits lasting years after the training." However, these technologies and training programs are not likely to be available to many older adults.Jing Feng is a NC State psychology professor and the corresponding author of this study. He says that he developed Drive Aware, a program to train drivers. Drive Aware is a cognitive program that teaches older adults how to spot road hazards. Our recent study sought to find out how Drive Aware affects driving behavior when the trainees get behind the wheel.The researchers recruited 27 people over 65 to test Drive Aware. All participants completed a baseline driving test on a simulator. The "active training" group was then assigned to nine of the study participants. Two interactive Drive Aware training sessions were given to the active training group, approximately one week apart. Nine study participants were also placed in the "passive training" category. The group viewed video of Drive Aware training sessions. These sessions were held twice each, and took place about one week apart. The control group consisted of the remaining nine participants. They received no training. The remaining 27 participants took another driving test on the driving simulator.Researchers found that active training participants had 25% less "unsafe incidents" than those who weren't part of the group. Unsafe incidents include accidents with other vehicles, pedestrians, and running off the roadway. Statistics showed no statistically significant difference in the number unsafe incidents among study participants in either the passive training or control groups.Yuan explains, "In short, after receiving Drive Aware training, older adults were less likely than ever to be in an accident on the driving simulator."Feng states that the testing was conducted with a small number of participants. We would like to increase our testing to better determine how effective the training is in reducing accidents among older drivers if we can get funding. We'd like to make the program available to as many people as possible if the results are as positive as they appear. Many people cannot afford to have one-on-one training on the road, or high-end simulator training. Drive Aware is available to many people, and we believe it can save many lives.