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AAA to deploy Brain Fitness Software DriveSharp to Assess and Train Older Driver’s Brains

The AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety just started to rec­om­mend a new dri­ver safety pro­gram called Dri­ve­Sharp (see AAA and Posit Release Pro­gram to Improve Dri­vers’ Minds), devel­oped by Posit Sci­ence. Dri­ve­Sharp is a com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing tool based on Kar­lene Ball’s research on older adults’ cog­ni­tive fit­ness and driving.

In the press release for the agree­ment, Peter Kissinger, dri­ver safety research and pol­icy vet­eran and CEO of the AAA Foun­da­tion, says thatPeter Kissinger AAA Foundation “Part of mak­ing our nation’s roads safer is help­ing mature dri­vers who wish to stay active — a quickly grow­ing pop­u­la­tion — main­tain or improve their dri­ving safety.”

We have Peter Kissinger with us to dis­cuss the con­text for this inno­v­a­tive initiative.

Peter, I appre­ci­ate your time. In order to set the con­text, would you intro­duce the role and pri­or­i­ties of the AAA Foundation?

Sure. All your read­ers will know that AAA is the main dri­ver asso­ci­a­tion in North Amer­ica, with over 50 mil­lion mem­bers. The AAA Foun­da­tion is focused on the research and pol­icy required to improve dri­ver safety and has 4 strate­gic pri­or­i­ties:
– Intro­duce a cul­ture of traf­fic safety. It is an out­rage that there is a driving-related death every 13 min­utes in the US, and yet, we seem to accept this as sta­tus quo
– Improve road safety, espe­cially on rural roads, where almost 60% of the deaths occur,
– Improve safety among teens, one of the high­est risk groups
– Improve safety among seniors, another high-risk group.

In terms of driver-centered inter­ven­tions, are your pri­or­i­ties are teenage and older drivers?

driver fatality rateYes. You have prob­a­bly seen the U-shaped risk curve (Edi­tor note: see fig­ure at left) that shows how acci­dent risks are very high among teenagers, then decrease and remain sta­ble until our 60s, and then increase again.

We have pro­moted ini­tia­tives such as Dri­verZED (see www.driverzed.org) to help teenagers bet­ter iden­tify and man­age the typ­i­cal sources of risk, so they advance faster through the learn­ing curve. For older dri­vers we focus on how to bal­ance the priv­i­lege of dri­ving with the right of mobil­ity — we know that los­ing dri­ving inde­pen­dence can bring a vari­ety of neg­a­tive con­se­quences for the individual.

Given aging pop­u­la­tion trends, it is clear we need to intro­duce bet­ter sys­tems to bal­ance those two goals you just out­lined –safety and mobil­ity. Do you think as a soci­ety we are prepared?

I don’t think we are, and I am pes­simistic that we will be in the short term. This is a very impor­tant prob­lem: offi­cial esti­mates say that the pro­por­tion of all dri­vers who are over 65 years of age will grow from 15% today to 25% in 2025.

Let me give you some back­ground: two years ago we put together a work­shop to iden­tify the state of the research and the state of the prac­tice of dri­ver safety among older adults. The main con­clu­sion was that the cur­rent sys­tem of licens­ing is inad­e­quate, incon­sis­tent and does not reflect the research avail­able. For exam­ple, age per se is not the most mean­ing­ful indi­ca­tor of dri­ver safety since dif­fer­ent peo­ple inside the same age group may have dif­fer­ent lev­els of cog­ni­tive abil­ity that influ­ence their dri­ving fitness.

The prob­lem is that this is a very sen­si­tive arena: the per­for­mance of agen­cies such as the DMV is often mea­sured by how long peo­ple have to wait in line, how fast and eas­ily they can renew their dri­ving license, if the process works by mail, etc.…so it is going to be tough for any politi­cian to chal­lenge this state of things and intro­duce seri­ous ini­tia­tives based on bet­ter dri­ving fit­ness screen­ing and assess­ment tools.

Some states like Mary­land and Cal­i­for­nia are lead­ing inno­va­tion based on recent research; but it remains to be seen if their best prac­tices will be adopted more widely.

Inno­va­tion will prob­a­bly spread faster when pre­sented as a pre­ven­tive inter­ven­tion to main­tain dri­ver fit­ness, such as what the AAA Foun­da­tion just announced with Posit Sci­ence. Can you explain the ratio­nale for your initiative?

Exactly. The main char­ac­ter­is­tics of the prob­lem are obvi­ous to any­one involved in dri­ver safety research. The chal­lenge is what we can do about it. At the Foun­da­tion we eval­u­ated many poten­tial inter­ven­tions, from screen­ing tools to get­ting the med­ical com­mu­nity more engaged, before decid­ing to pro­mote a com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive screen­ing and train­ing pro­gram such as DriveSharp.

We decided to rec­om­mend Dri­ve­Sharp for two rea­sons. First, it is val­i­dated both as a screen­ing tool of dri­ver safety and as a train­ing tool of cog­ni­tive func­tions (use­ful field of view, speed of pro­cess­ing) that are crit­i­cal for dri­ving espe­cially among older adults. Sec­ond, the tech­nol­ogy makes it highly scal­able — many dri­vers can eas­ily access the ben­e­fits at an afford­able cost.

We really believe, based on the research we have seen, that this pro­gram can help reduce the crash rates among older dri­vers, but we of course need to ana­lyze how many of AAA’s 51 mil­lion mem­bers (and other dri­vers) end up using it and what ben­e­fits they will get. Past research has shown we should expect to see a 50% reduc­tion in at-fault crash risk for those that com­plete the program.

Assum­ing the results are as good as you expect, what would be some log­i­cal next steps for pol­icy mak­ers and auto insurers?

I think that insur­ance com­pa­nies will start to see the value of these pro­grams quickly and will offer them for free or at a deep dis­count to their mem­bers because they will under­stand the direct finan­cial ben­e­fits from doing so –the finan­cial ben­e­fits of hav­ing safer drivers.

It will take a while for policy-makers to catch up. But I do believe that in the longer term we will see the type of tech­nol­ogy which is inher­ent in Dri­ve­Sharp intro­duced as part of the main­stream licens­ing process.

Related arti­cles:

- All­state: Can we improve Dri­ver Safety using Posit Sci­ence InSight?

- Improv­ing Dri­ving Skills and Brain Func­tion­ing– Inter­view with ACTIVE’s Jerri Edwards
- Dri­ve­Fit (by Cog­niFit); Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for Driving

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