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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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