Understanding the Challenges of the Older Driver: Attention, Road Complexity and Assessment

Title: Understanding the Challenges of the Older Driver: Attention, Road Complexity and Assessment
Authors: Stinchcombe, Arne
Date: 2011
Abstract: Older adults are at an increased risk for motor-vehicle collisions (MVCs) once distance driven is considered, a finding that is partly attributed to a decline in attention related processes associated with age. MVCs typically occur in highly specific areas, suggesting a role of the complexity of the driving environment contributing to the occurrence of MVCs. The goal of this thesis was to explore the attentional demands of simulated driving events of varying complexity among young, mature and older drivers. In the present studies, attentional demand associated with driving was assessed through the peripheral detection task (PDT), a method in which a stimulus unrelated to the driving task is presented and drivers manually respond immediately upon its detection; latency to respond is recorded. The complexity of the driving environment was operationalized in terms of vehicle handling and of information processing elements. In the first study, inexperienced drivers completed a series simulated driving scenarios that varied according to their information processing and vehicle handling demands. The results showed a reduction in PDT performance at intersections where information processing is increased as well as when handling maneuvers behind a lead vehicle were required. Building on these findings, the second study employed the identical protocol as the first but examined differences in attentional demand between mid-aged and older drivers. The results indicated that when information processing demands were increased through the addition of traffic, and buildings, all participants exhibited greater workload regardless of age. The third study presented young, mid-aged, and older drivers with a simulated driving assessment course and administered several cognitive tasks. The results of the third study supported the hypothesis in that complex driving situations elicited greater attentional demand among drivers of all ages. Older adults showed greater attentional demand in comparison to young and mid-aged adults even after controlling for baseline response time. Older drivers also scored poorer on a global measure of driving safety. The results of this thesis highlight the roles of intrinsic and extrinsic factors involved in safe driving and are discussed in terms of appropriate interventions to improve road safety.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/20464
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -