Brain Training for Older Drivers
We have all read about, and possibly even experienced, the danger of elders driving when they should not be. Be it the trauma of explaining to an older driver in our family who needs to have his or her car keys taken away or actually watching (or worse, being involved in) and auto accident caused by an elder driver, it can be a difficult situation.
Believe it or not, inroads are being made to help post-pone (not eliminate) the inevitable; to give up our so cherished privilege of driver – the first major adult form of freedom we receive in this country. A company called Posit Science has unveiled a software testing program that helps to retrain older drivers to compensate for decreasing brain function in one area by increasing function in another area.
On one level, it is pretty exciting, especially as this new training has been proven to decrease accidents in older drivers by one-half. And, considering that fatal crashes dramatically increase after age 75 (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), this potential reduction would result in major savings in both lives and money.
In 2008, Posit Science acquired Visual Awareness, Inc., a company that made the original brain training idea, at that time called Useful Field of View/Brain Training, developed by lead scientists Dr. Karlene Bell and Dr. Jerri Edwards. Posit Science repackaged the idea into a new program labeled “Drive Sharp” and sells it online for $89 (www.brainhq.com/why-brainhq/about-the-brainhq-exercises/drivesharp). The course is endorsed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and AAA even offers a brief risk evaluation test to determine if you, or a loved one, actually could benefit from the Drive Sharp program.
In his article “Why Brain Training Helps Older Drivers,” Dr. Pascale Michelon notes several cognitive skills sets/abilities/brain functions that are required for effective driving:
• Read and follow road signs (brain function: language comprehension)
• Pay attention to everything in the environment (visual attention)
• Anticipate what may happen on the road (decision-making, planning, motor skills)
• React quickly to what happens on the road (processing speed)
These points, and many others, have lead scientists to work at transferring brain functions from one area of the brain to other areas to help compensate for any deficiencies; specifically through such programs as Posit Science’s Drive Sharp.
With 1 in 5 baby boomers being 65 years old or older and driving during the next 15 years, we can use all the help we can get to reduce the number of auto accidents and subsequently, insurance premiums. We not only owe it to our seniors, but also to all of the other drivers on the road.