As the percentage of elderly drivers increases, there is growing concern about the safety of these drivers. Studies show that drivers over 70 are more likely than younger drivers to be involved in right-of-way crashes at intersections. This finding has been attributed to diminished physical abilities (such as difficulty turning one’s head), as well as cognitive decline (such as errors in selective attention or poor judgment of vehicle speed). Pollatsek, Romoser, and Fisher (2012) compared older adult and younger drivers on both a driving simulator and field test (filming the drivers using head-mounted cameras) to evaluate these claims. Their study suggested that differences in the behaviors of older drivers did not involve head movements or attentional skills, but an unsafe habit of focusing on the area in front of them (to avoid hitting other vehicles or pedestrians), rather than on the area to the side, which is an area of greater risk at an intersection. In fact, training developed by the authors to improve driver safety was successful in increasing older driver’s focus on side areas.
Selective Attention in Older Drivers
Pollatsek, A., Romoser, M. R. E., & Fisher, D. (2012) Identifying and remediating failures of selective attention in older drivers. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(1), 3-7.
Aging Attention Habitual behavior Selective attentionMedia Supplement
See this NPR podcast about high-tech solutions to help older people drive more safely. [12 min 14 sec]