The decreased field of vision and reduced mobility associated with aging can lead to an increased risk of accident, injury and even premature death among senior drivers. Given the predicted dramatic increase in the U.S. senior driver population in the years ahead, these physical changes have the potential to become an increasing cause of injury or death on American roads.
To help limit the risk to senior drivers and others, researchers are studying how brain training exercises can help senior drivers restore their field of vision. As part of this effort, Toyota’s CSRC and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) have partnered to test and compare the benefits of brain fitness training programs for senior drivers, including a program that could help retrain a driver’s brain while in the vehicle.
The project will initially focus on building a baseline understanding of senior driving performance, with VTTI monitoring a select group of senior drivers as they engage in everyday driving events. Then, in an effort to increase the quantity of information a driver can absorb in a single glance, this test group will begin in-vehicle useful field of vision training. To measure the training’s effectiveness, researchers will test project participants on a closed course.
The project’s goal is to evaluate whether brain fitness testing improves useful field of vision and to examine whether it can reduce the risk of crash events for senior drivers. In-vehicle brain fitness testing systems have the potential to increase the mobility of seniors in the U.S. Positive study results could help inform the development and production of future vehicles. The testing process may also help illuminate the long-term effectiveness of brain fitness training in general.
This three-year project will be divided into six phases, with the first 8 months focused on literature review, the creation of the training program and participant selection and recruitment. Administration of the training program will take approximately 4 months, and long-term follow up of the effects of training on senior drivers will take place for approximately one year. Researchers will also continue to conduct additional brain fitness training in order to gauge its long term effectiveness.