Only the most hard-core Aging Matters readers will recall that driving has been discussed here; it was more than three years ago, in September 2008. The topic calls out to be revisited, partly because most people will identify a link between aging and increased risk of accidents behind the wheel. Further, it’s common knowledge that by 2030, this country’s over-65 population will number 71 million, more than double what it was in 2000.
Advances in science and technology suggest that we don’t necessarily have to resign ourselves to the awful choice between either being an increased hazard on the road or giving up driving altogether.
In addition to the resources you probably already know about, such as safe-driving courses available through AARP and AAA, there’s a promising product called DriveSafe — computer-based training developed and marketed by a company called PositScience. The product is recommended by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, and there are indications that it works to reduce older drivers’ risk of at-fault crashes.
Because the product and others put out by PositScience are based on brain science, their claims are easily understood — the brain’s decline in visual processing speed can be offset to an extent previously discounted.
The DriveSafe training can be shown to expand what’s called the Useful Field of View, thereby helping the brain become better at collecting information from vision. For instance, a 65-year-old man quoted in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 29) took the course three times before making a cross-country road trip in 2009, and said that it caused him to be more aware, to see more on the road, and be able to focus on multiple moving objects.
There’s a good review at http://classiccars.about.com/od/productreviews/gr/Drivesharp.htm. The reviewers found the product usable and helpful in widening peripheral vision and keeping track of multiple events. DriveSafe is also interactively adaptable to the user’s progress — though the reviewers did report that they didn’t start to show improvement right away, and that was frustrating. The product can only be used online, and the cost is $89; an “upgrade,” whatever that means, would be $249.
Since this column doesn’t itself claim to be scientifically based, my recommendation would be to invest in this tool if the issue is pertinent to you or someone close to you, and try it. While we continue to work on enhancing transportation options for all, including the elderly, we must also acknowledge that if there are tools to make us and our loved ones better drivers, such tools would almost certainly be beneficial in these times, when more and more aging people are still behind the wheel.
— Contact Bobbie Moore at email@example.com.