by Jim Hanni
Today, those over 65 represent under 10 percent of the U.S. population, but by 2030 they will account for 20 percent.
One of the concerns about senior driving is that as we age, the “useful field of view,” the area over which we can extract information in a single glance, shrinks. For a driver watching the road ahead, this ability might mean noticing a child running into the street after a ball or seeing another car that’s trying to merge into your lane.
It also becomes more difficult to handle distractions and divided attention. If we can improve our divided attention, we should be able to do a better job of tracking multiple moving objects at once, such as cars at a busy intersection or people crossing a street.
These cognitive abilities are vital to safe driving and can help drivers
● notice potential hazards ahead of time
● protect themselves and their passengers by reacting quicker to hazards
● and maintain their overall driving skills and independence.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has been working with a company called PositScience, the leading provider of clinically validated brain fitness programs in the U.S. to develop DRIVESHARP, a computer software tool which focuses on the visual systems in the brain essential to safe driving.
Studies show conclusively now that people who use the exercises in DRIVESHARP experience many driving benefits which help to:
● Cut your risk of a car crash by up to 50 percent
● Increase the useful field of view by up to 200 percent
● Reduce stopping distance by up to 22 feet at 55 mph
● Increase confidence while driving at night and in congested traffic
Copies of the software have been donated to the East Topeka Senior Center and Senior Services of Wichita. Another copy has been donated to the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library for demonstration purposes. These were provided so that regardless of income or not having a computer, there will be a place to go where senior drivers can take the exercise challenge and improve their ability to drive safely longer.
The exercises are to be conducted for 20 minutes a day, three times a week, for ten weeks. AAA members can acquire DRIVESHARP for $99 by visiting www.drivesharpnow.com/allied. The non-AAA member price is $129, but for remainder of this week non-members can acquire a copy for $99, too, by visiting www.aaafoundation.org.
Jim Hanni is the executive vice president of public and government affairs for AAA Kansas.