Getting older doesn’t mean we have to stop driving, or that we are a danger behind the wheel, but we do have to become aware of any signs that it may become a safety issue — for you or others around you. By employing safe driving techniques we can reducing risk factors for seniors, as well as those on the roads around the. A new study finds that memory training or memory improvement courses can help seniors to react quicker and become safer drivers.
In 2003 an 85-year-old man Santa Monica, California man pressed his foot on the gas pedal of his 1992 Buick, mistaking it for the brake, and drove three blocks along a crowded Farmer’s Market. People and businesses were strewn along the way before a body crashing into his windshield stopped the car. A 3-year-old girl was among the nine dead, and there were 54 more people injured that day.
The tragic accident brought up a lot of controversy as to whether there should be stricter laws for elderly people who are renewing their driver’s licenses. The number of drivers age 85 and over by the year 2030 will be four times greater than it is today. Based on current fatality rates per mile, the numbers of elderly traffic fatalities will more than triple by then. What can be done to ensure seniors will have the privilege to drive, if they are able, while keeping our roads safe?
Statistically, seniors as a group are at fault in car accidents than younger people. They also suffer the most injuries or death as a result. They risk of cutting these accidents in half can be obtained with the proper kind of brain-training program, according to scientific studies.
Researchers from several universities took part in a national study that included more than 900 active drivers over the age of 73. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The elderly subjects were divided into four groups: three groups given 10 sessions of different kinds of brain training and a control group.
- The first group used a computer program designed to increase their reaction times.
- The second learned strategies to improve reasoning and problem solving.
- The third got classroom training designed to improve memory.
- The control group had no training at all.
Participants’ driving records were monitored over the next six years, covering more than 25 million miles. Findings were that the drivers who received the computer or problem-solving training caused 50% fewer accidents compared to the control group. But those who went through classroom memory training/ memory improvement classes, however, showed no significant change.
“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 of the study, Karlene Ball, professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
“The brain at any age is more flexible than people realize. If older drivers can train their brains to be more alert and responsive, they can reduce their risk of accidents,” says Jamie Wilson, M.D. of SharpBrains, a market research and think tank tracking brain fitness (not involved in the study) says,
As a memory expert I definitely see the advantages to memory training for adults in order to be safer drivers and I know first-hand of the advantages.
From the desk of Ron White
Senior Drivers.org — Transition from Driving: http://www.seniordrivers.org/notdriving/notdriving.cfm?button=guk
AARP – Older Drivers Improve Safety With Brain Training, Study finds training cuts accident risk in half: http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-12-2010/older_drivers_improve_safety_with_brain_training.html