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Transportation Technology

Keeping Older Drivers Behind the Wheel 260 260

Hugh Pickens writes "A new study shows the key role technology can play in extending the age at which people can drive safely and highlights the important psychological role that driving plays in older people's lives in contributing to feelings of independence and freedom and maintaining their quality of life. The study identified ideas for in-car information systems to help compensate for the reduction in reaction time that affects many older drivers. Specific recommendations included a head-up display on the windshield that displays road sign information based on GPS position so the driver doesn't have to keep watching the road side for information and a system to provide the driver with audible feedback on their current speed so the driver doesn't have to look at the dashboard so often. 'Our research highlights issues that have been overlooked by car designers and those advising older people on lifestyles,' says Dr Charles Musselwhite, who led the study. 'The current emphasis on developing technologies which take over part of the driving task may actually end up deterring older drivers. By contrast, better in-car information systems could help them drive safely and ensure they want to keep driving.'"
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Keeping Older Drivers Behind the Wheel

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  • Re:Please no! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gerf (532474) <edtgerf@gmail.com> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:00PM (#25088467) Journal
    I agree. While neat, these systems are just more information for old people to ignore, or worse, be distracted by.
  • by Louis Savain (65843) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:14PM (#25088549) Homepage

    According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis [dot.gov], in 2005, over 43,000 people were killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. alone. I don't know what the number is for the entire world but it must be in the six digits. Most of them are not caused by older drivers. Traffic fatalities and injuries are a much bigger threat to the nation than terrorism. All the money being spent on terrorism should be thrown into developping a 100% automated transit system. And no, we don't need AI to do it.

  • Baby Boomers (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:17PM (#25088559)

    Just in time for the incoming wave of our aging baby boomers...It feels like everything these days is centered around them.

  • by hedgemage (934558) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:21PM (#25088593)
    And the problem with driving is complicated by many, many factors. First off, you have vision problems, hearing problems, problems placing objects in space (as much cognitive as visual), memory (even short term things like cancelling a turn signal), reaction speed, fine motor skills, and the list goes on. The folks I deal with are not computer users, and their unfamiliarity with them would make the addition of GPS, warning lights, vocal instructions simply more confusing than helpful. The real solution shouldn't be keeping elderly drivers driving, but rather giving them more safe and accessible public transportation options.
  • Re:Baby Boomers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:25PM (#25088615) Homepage

    It feels like everything for the past 40 years has been centered around them.

    Fixed that for you.

  • Missing the point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by taustin (171655) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:31PM (#25088657) Homepage Journal

    Anything that makes it safer for older drivers to keep driving will make it safer for all drivers to keep driving. An 18 year old shouldn't be looking at the dashboard or road signe any more than necessary. In fact, there isn't a single argument that isn't equally valid for drunk drivers as it is for older drivers. The point isn't to make it easier for drivers who have lost the ability to drive safely to keep driving. The point is to assess all drivers, of all ages and walks of life, on an ongoing basis, based on current technogy, to make certain they still have the physical and mental skills necessary to meet the current requirements for a license. This is just a dodge to A) make money, and B) court the AARP vote.

  • Wrong Goals (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:40PM (#25088721)
    When they place the comfort of seniors above the safety of everyone, we have already lost.
  • Re:Please no! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RudeIota (1131331) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:44PM (#25088755) Homepage

    Scouring the road side is part of safe driving

    Yes, but not all roadside information is relevant to your safety... If you do any driving in unfamiliar, cluttered city areas (especially at night), looking for road signs and addresses can be extremely distracting.

    Granted, people have routines; Most seniors will probably travel in familiar territory most of the time... but for those times when older people (hell, anyone) are looking for a street with a tiny sign in the opposing lane or looking for a friend's house in the dark for the first time, cues from a GPS can be a huge increase to safety by keeping your eyes on the things you should be looking for... like vehicles and pedestrians.

  • Re:Please no! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:55PM (#25088819)

    Give him a break, maybe Senator McCain is busy texting someone on his BlackBerry.

    lmfao*!!!

    (* i'm john mccain, and i approved this message.)

  • Nightmare (Score:3, Insightful)

    by houghi (78078) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:56PM (#25088825)

    If anything, reaction will be slower. I can now imagine what would happen if my parents would have a head ups display.

    * Well, officer, there suddenly were these letters in front of me and while I was changing my driving glasses for my reading glasses, I hit the car in front of me. And I was just on my way to my grand-son. Little houghi is now engaged, you know. Lovely girl it is. They will get married next summer in ...

    At a certain age EVERYTHING becomes a distraction. My parents can't even drive with the radio on anymore. If I tell them to go left or right, I need to tell that WAY in advance and need to repeat it three times.
    I would not dare to give them a GPS, let alone ask them to handle one.

  • by RudeIota (1131331) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:09PM (#25088909) Homepage
    I disagree with you on the basis that the elderly are no more responsible for wrecks than teens and young adults.

    U.S drivers under the age of 25 are about twice as likely [census.gov] to be involved in a fatal wreck and often 3-5 times more likely to be in a wreck per 1000 drivers.

    I've seen some statistics from Canada as well which echo similar results.

    Remember, old people don't drive well because they are impaired... Young people don't drive well because they make reckless and/or inexperienced decisions. If you want to restrict licenses, then you should probably start with not issuing licenses until the mid twenties for males and late teens to early 20s for women... It seems teen/young adult wrecks coincide pretty well with frontal lobe development... which in itself, could be labeled an impairment.
  • Re:Please no! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:09PM (#25088911)

    Reaction time isn't the only factor that can make you a good driver or not. It isn't even the most important factor.
    If it was then we would be letting kids 8 years old to drive cars. As their reaction time is better then even someone in their 20s or 30s. But it more then that a good driver has the ability to use the information of the surrounding and keep the car in a situation were you don't need a fast reaction time to adjust to the situation. It is about seeing that guy in the intersection and knowing to slow down as he will illegally turn without looking, or zooming past the stop sign keeping a 3 second distance between you and the driver ahead of you so if he stops quickly you have a lot of time to analyze the situation and react with a lot of time not split second. Seeing the guy behind you is pissed off because you are driving safely but it seems to cautious for him and will pass you, rather angrily. You need the emotional stability that comes with age to not get pissed off and try to get even with him. There are a lot of skills that older driver bring to the road too. Giving them tools to help balance what is loss with age will only help make things better. I don't think this technology is for the 90 year old woman. But for the 60 year old person who is starting to feel his age.

  • by powerlinekid (442532) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:14PM (#25088935)

    That is anecdotal... just like the below.

    Every accident I've been involved in over the past 10 years involved a driver over 70 years old. One passed a turning vehicle to hit another turning vehicle without even slowing. The other decided that making a right hand turn into an oncoming vehicle was a good idea. And we're not talking cutting someone off here... we're talking about broadsiding them.

    The only ones who know just how safe elderly drivers are as a whole is probably the insurance agencies.

  • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:53PM (#25089179) Homepage Journal

    Ummm... the "statistics" (I presume you are talking about the quote from People Magazine on the left?) say nothing of the sort.

    They say:

    For every age group, the fatality rate per 100,000 population was lower for females than for males. The injury rate based on population was higher for females than for males in every age group, except for people under 5 years old and people over 65 years old.

    Which says absolutely nothing useful. Here is just one reason why... it does not (nor do the actual statistics) indicate anything about the person who caused the accident.

    Inotherwords, how old was the driver at fault? Any other age related data is pretty irrelevant to the statement you are trying to make - and sadly, that information is lacking.

    I can see the mistake being an easy one... the Peope Mag quote is confusing at best, retarded at worst.

  • Re:Please no! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fyoder (857358) * on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:07PM (#25089251) Homepage Journal

    I don't think this technology is for the 90 year old woman. But for the 60 year old person who is starting to feel his age.

    There are 90 year olds who can drive just fine. And there are others who are vegetables. The differences in abilities amongst the elderly can be huge. What makes sense beyond a certain age is annual tests. Grandpa passes, he can continue to drive, otherwise not. Actually assessing the ability of the individual makes a more sense than arbitrary rules. And if you need GPS to know a stop sign is coming, you shouldn't be driving. Unless kids, animals, and idiot pedestrians are chipped and show up on the display as well.

  • Re:Please no! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NotBornYesterday (1093817) * on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:26PM (#25089375) Journal
    Or airplanes! [youtube.com]
  • Re:Please no! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:30PM (#25089395)

    I'm not old, just 31, and I choose not to drive due to cognitive impairments (Sensory Integration Disorder, Asperger's, etc.).

    I could pass the driving test and get a license if I wanted one, but it's not in the best interest of myself or the public.

    Some older drivers would likely not pass a driving test if required to take one when renewing a license.

    I think everyone should be required to take a written and driving test once every 5 years when renewing their license. It would be an inconvenience, but would save a lot of lives.

  • by Dan541 (1032000) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:31PM (#25089409) Homepage

    Remember, old people don't drive well because they are impaired... Young people don't drive well because they make reckless and/or inexperienced decisions. If you want to restrict licenses, then you should probably start with not issuing licenses until the mid twenties for males and late teens to early 20s for women... It seems teen/young adult wrecks coincide pretty well with frontal lobe development... which in itself, could be labeled an impairment.

    and revoke female license holders once they reach the age of 30, and were all set.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:32PM (#25089415) Homepage Journal
    In france, people living in bordeaux can board the train and make it to their jobs in paris, 400-500 km away, just in an hour or so.

    in america, people suffer 1-1.5 hours of traffic to go to their jobs downtown.

    the solution is simple. more, quality mass transportation. this way you can assure that life quality and independence of older citizens never deteriorates, and also you can save younger citizens from wasting their life away in traffic.
  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig@hogger.gmail@com> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:00PM (#25089555) Journal

    Cars are the number one killers, both of planet and of people, and they want to keep people driving older?

  • by porpnorber (851345) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:25PM (#25089727)

    I'm amazed! This is Slashdot, and here I was all ready to do what I usually do: stick my oar in and say, guys! Forget the technology angle, there's an important policy issue here—we should be restricting car use to the competent, not extending it to the incompetent! And what do I find? That's what everyone is saying! Will marvels never cease?

    Unfortunately, there's a show-stopping technical issue here that everyone is—quite surreally—overlooking. Use GPS to tell people about roadsigns? What if GPS mis-reports your location? What if you're in a tunnel? What if there's construction? What if, for heaven's sake, the bridge is out, and the sign and the road are not there? Building a system in which people control physical weapons (sorry, vehicles) based on information from an ungrounded virtual reality is criminally insane!

    Now, putting directional transponders on road signs so they can identify themselves clearly and reproduce themselves on in-vehicle displays is such an obvious idea that I've been expecting to see it announced as reality at every car show for 35 years. It's an absolutely must-do, supervising-officials-must-be-suicidal-morons-to-miss-it (or evil geniuses up to no good to pretend to miss it) sort of thing. Of course we want that. But it has to be very reliable. Over 99% reliable, because unlike physical street signs, the failure modes aren't ones that we can fix by moving the signs or adding flashing lights. And it has to be a solution that applies to flares and bollards and temporary signage just as smoothly as it does to fixed signage. Use GPS?

    Sorry, my brain just exploded.

  • by shaitand (626655) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:59PM (#25089901) Journal

    The real answer is to get those older drivers off the roadways. Forget the grey panthers and require drivers over 65 to re-qualify to keep their license every 2 yrs and include a driven and reflex test as well as the usual vision test.

    Old drivers aren't often in accidents, they often cause accidents. They will obliviously run a red light and cause a collision behind them while they blissfully continue on to park with their wheel up on the curb at the grocery store.

  • Re:Please no! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lost Engineer (459920) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @12:01AM (#25090173)

    Some highway onramps are short and some cars take a while to get to 60 or really 75 here in CA. Obviously no one should be in the left lane going slower than traffic, but if you're in the right lane you need to yield to the ramp. It's not just a good idea, it's the law.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 21, 2008 @12:02AM (#25090179)

    If for some outlandish reason it is actually found, agreed upon, and established that the technologies outlined within this article can in fact extend the useful driving capacity of the elderly, then what about applying the same technologies on behalf of those who are intoxicated.

    Are not slower reaction times, impaired vision, cloudy thinking, and irresponiveness the exact reasons behind keeping old people off of the road? It would seem to me that I should be able to install similar systems and be allowed to operate my vehicle lawfully with a higher BAC.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 21, 2008 @12:35AM (#25090329)

    This is exactly the problem. People like you.

    "People without experience make mistakes, So let's limit the amount of experience they get"

    The correct answer is to increase driver training, and increase driver testing.

    I walked into the DMV, took a ~40 question, drove around the block and got the privilege to risk everyones' life for the next 10 years, isn't America grand?

    Look to Germany, Where they have knowledgable drivers that are tested often.

  • What? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 21, 2008 @12:36AM (#25090337)

    Has this researcher even spoken with older drivers? Or for that matter have the auto manufactures ever asked older drivers what the want? Here are some points to consider.
    1. Why have 26 buttons and knobs on a radio mounted directly below the heater controls?
    2. How about headlight and wiper controls mounted on the dash instead of the turn signal lever?
    3. How about marking controls with large bold text instead of nebulous icons to small to see without reading glasses?
    4. Turn signal indicators mounted on top of the dash in the line of sight.
    5. How about a psych profile prior to purchase of an SUV? Many SUV owners think they bought an Abrams tank.
    Current cars are built for 25 year old buyers who often can't afford them and for auto company executives that are trying to pump up the sticker price with all the extraneous junk built in. Why put a check engine light on the dash with out further information as to why it is on? Because it drives the customer to the dealer for mystical problems solved at ripoff prices. These problems may be as simple as a gas cap not tight, burned out tail lamp or low freon in the AC, these could be defined on the LCD dash panel and corrected by the driver easily with the proper information being shared. Its funny I can see a display of the CD name, track number and elapsed time of the track but not a burned out light bulb. In short the cars are built for GM's CEO not for the customer and they wonder why we don't buy them.

  • Re:Please no! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @07:39AM (#25091977) Journal
    You need the emotional stability that comes with age to not get pissed off and try to get even with him.

    Y'know, I just don't understand that one. I have a rather long commute, and on a typical morning, I have to pass at least a few people going painfully slow. I don't do so "rather angrily", I don't do so aggressively, I simply do it to get in front of them. I wait for a good clear spot with a legal passing zone, and get past them as quickly as possible and back into the proper lane.

    Yet many people take that very, very personally. They speed up to try to block me passing them, they swerve into the middle of the road endangering both of us, they honk or flash their lights... And on the few occasions I've passed coworkers, they later make a point of "jokingly" calling me a speed freak (I rarely go 10 over, and don't pass anyone at least doing the speed limit).

    I just don't get it. When someone clearly wants to pass me, at the first open section of road, I make a point of hugging the right edge of the lane and slow down a bit to make it easier. Why do people get upset at the "threat" of having someone who wants to go faster than them, not remain trapped behind them?
  • by cavehobbit (652751) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @09:14AM (#25092381)

    These kinds of proposals all ignore the potential damage that drivers do already, and yet seek to extend the ability to inflict that damage, without any increase in holding people accountable for that damage or misuse in general.

    I used to teach driving, I know how bad many drivers are. I have also been hit by cars while riding my bicycle many times, and hauled away in an ambulance twice. The drivers never even got a ticket for running stop signs or failing to yield on a left turn, which were the causes of the two near-fatal "accidents".

    A big part of the problem is that we perceive that driving is now so safe, with seat belts, air-bags, etc., we do not need to be concerned about it any more. Something Hans Monderman started to question: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html [wired.com], with some success.

    Drivers are also shielded from public reaction to bad behavior, behind sheet metal, glass, sound-proofing, which pedestrians are not. Ever notice how polite most people are when walking around? How often do you hear "pardon me", "Go ahead, you first" and other niceties between folks just walking around? Even in NYC I rarely ever see people give the finger or shout obscenities to between pedestrians. Between drivers, I se this all the time.

    There is a quote somewhere that best safety feature in a car would be a steel spike sticking out of the steering wheel pointed directly at the drivers chest. I agree. If drivers actually faced the same likely hood of death and injury those outside the cars do, we would all be safer. At least after Darwin got caught up.

    Trains, ships and planes are all safer than automobiles, yet we hold the drivers of automobiles to a far lower standard than we do the other three, while studiously ignoring the carnage autos cause.

    If anything, we should make driving autos far MORE dangerous to the driver, to increase perceived danger, thereby increasing the caution drivers employ, at the same time raising the level of accountability to levels in proportion to the dangers autos represent when compared to other forms of transportation.

    Make all cars convertibles, with open windows so that drivers are not shielded from public ridicule or anger when they do something stupid, require name and address posted on all cars just like is required for commercial vehicles. Wnat to be anonymous? Fine, hire a car and driver owned by someone else, that has that owners name and address on it, who in turn will be held responsible.

    Get involved in a collision on a public road: Suspend all driving privileges until fault is assigned. Then continue the suspension for all at fault in proportion to that fault once assigned. Get involved in a fatal crash: Revoke all driving privileges for life for those found at fault.

    Travel is a right, using a lethal machine to do so is not. Extending the ability to use that machinery by increasing perceived safety for the drivers, and shielding drivers from the consequences of misuse, without also holding people accountable for misuse will only make things worse.

  • Re:Please no! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by electrictroy (912290) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @09:40AM (#25092541)

    But seriously:

    In my experience it's not the old drivers who are "hotdogging" and zig-zagging through traffic, and endangering everyone on the highway:

    It's the young people who are impatient,
    and think they are racers instead of drivers.

    The older people are more laidback and sedate and just calmly stay in their lanes. The highest accident rates are for people 16-35. Perhaps THEY are the ones who should be targeted for additional, stricter tests, and lose their licenses. Stop harassing the elders who are actually the most-experienced/safest drivers on the road.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM

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