Statistics used to say that older drivers, as a group, tended to be more likely to be at fault in auto accidents than younger people, and suffered more severe injuries or death as a result. Recent studies indicate that with some brain training these negative statistics could be turned around and help older adults to improve their driving skills. It also canâ€™t hurt younger people either in order to ensure their reflexes and focusing abilities can improve.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a research group funded by the insurance industry, between 1997-2008 the number of fatal crashed caused by licensed drivers over the age of 70 fell 37%. Drivers over 80 decreased the accident rate by almost 47%. As a comparison, the fatal crash rate for drivers 35 to 54 years of age decreased only 23%. Nonfatal accidents and the survival rate for older drivers also went in the right direction.
â€œThis is very good news,â€ says Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at IIHS and a coauthor of the study. â€œItâ€™s counter to what had been expected. Very often older drivers come into the news after there has been a bad crash, leaving the impression that they are becoming a menace on the roads. When you look at our study, thatâ€™s not the case.â€
Much of this turnaround has been due to safety courses conducted through AARP and insurance companies to ensure driver safety. Many drivers has been able to take brain training courses that help them, and their customer feedback has been positive, saying the scientific training is very beneficial and helped with their ability to think faster, focus better and remember more.
Several universities participated in studies that included more than 900 active drivers with the average age of 73. The research was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Volunteers were divided into four different groups, with three groups receiving 10 sessions of different types of brain training and the other as a control group with no training of any kinds.
- One groups used a computer program that was designed to increase their response time
- One group learned problem-solving and reasoning improvement strategies
- One group received memory training in a classroom
The driving records of the participants were reviewed over the next six years. During this time the volunteers logged in over 25 million miles. The conclusion was that those receiving the computer or problem-solving brain training techniques had 50% fewer accidents compared to the control group for the same time frame. Those who went through the memory training showed no significant change, however.
“It shows that the right kind of cognitive training can actually improve the driving abilities of older people, who can then benefit from greater independence and a better quality of life,” says the study’s lead author, Karlene Ball, professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
“The brain at any age is more flexible than people realize,” says Jamie Wilson, M.D., of SharpBrains, a think tank and market research firm that tracks brain fitness. SharpBrains was not involved in the study. “If older drivers can train their brains to be more alert and responsive, they can reduce their risk of accidents.”
Â â€œThe new IIHS report reinforces what safety experts already know: Age by itself doesnâ€™t cause car crashes.â€ Most older drivers are safe drivers and exercise personal responsibilityâ€”the report found that many older drivers were limiting their own driving at night and on high-speed roads, she says. â€œAt a time of pervasive new driver distractionsâ€”like cell phones, texting and even DVD playersâ€”the self-awareness, attentiveness and judgment of most older drivers should reassure other drivers on the roadways.â€
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.
AARP – Older Drivers Improve Safety with Brain Training: http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-12-2010/older_drivers_improve_safety_with_brain_training.html
AARP – Study Reveals Safer Driving
Trend in 70-plus Age Group: Self-regulation, state requirements drive new stats: http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/info-06-2010/study-reveals-safer-driving-trend-among-older-drivers.html