Why Would An Older Driver Run A Red Light?I read an interesting science paper published in the Journal of Gerontology. Dr. Sheila West and her colleagues from Johns Hopkins University asked older drivers to volunteer to have their cars rigged with cameras and GPS systems to monitor their driving over a five-day period. They recruited 1,425 drivers aged 67 to 85. Specifically the authors were interested in driving behavior at traffic lights. They found that 4% of participants failed to stop at a red traffic light and about one in six failed to stop at 10% or more of the red lights they encountered. Clearly this is a worrying result.

The authors found that poor Useful Field of View (UFOV) performance was the best predictor of a failure to stop. UFOV is the area over which a person can take in information from a scene at a single glance. The authors suggest that drivers with poor UFOV use attentional resources to monitor the central area of vision and miss important peripheral information including the traffic light itself.

Currently most DMVs examine visual acuity using an eye-chart but fail to assess visual attention capabilities, even though this has been shown in many studies to be a much better predictor of automobile crashes. In fact, a reduced UFOV can double the risk of a crash. However, the news is not all bad. Fortunately we now know that UFOV can be increased by training. BrainHQ and Drivesharp contain exercises that have been clinically proven to increase UFOV and reduce at-fault crashes.

The article is available here: http://biomedgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/glp136v1