Identifying and Remediating Failures of Selective Attention in Older Drivers

Pollatsek, A., Romosert, M. R. E., and Fisher, D. L.
SAGE Publications

This research examined simulator studies conducted with participants aged 70 years and older and participants aged 25-55 years to examine the differences in scanning behaviour based on age. These age groups were selected as older drivers are over-involved in right-of-way crashes, primarily in intersections. To examine the differences between these two age groups, researchers addressed three questions about the failure of older drivers to scan appropriately at intersections. The three questions addressed were: (1) whether the failure to scan appropriately at intersections was a general tendency to look around less while driving or whether it occurs at certain critical periods, such as approaching an intersection, (2) whether the failure to monitor for potential hazards it due solely to the changes in cognitive abilities that occur with age, and (3) whether the failure to scan appropriately at intersections is due to musculoskeletal problems.

Results from this review showed that there is a critical interval to scan for potential risks when drivers approach and enter an intersection. This interval is two seconds before vehicles enter the intersection and one second after vehicles have entered the intersection. All drivers scanning during this critical interval have a greater probability of crash avoidance. Further, results showed that older drivers fail to scan appropriately at intersections due to the development of an unsafe habit. This habit is attributed to the perceived driving goal to not hit anything that is in front of their vehicle. As a result, drivers are focused on the road in front of them as opposed to scanning around the vehicle while driving. This habit decreases the ability of drivers to recognize when there are hazards such as oncoming vehicles approaching from either side.

Reference
Pollatsek, A., Romoser, M. R., & Fisher, D. L. (2012). Identifying and Remediating Failures of Selective Attention in Older Drivers. Current directions in psychological science, 21(1), 3-7.