Teenagers and adults: mental abilities for safe driving

adAs dri­vers get old­er a num­ber of cog­ni­tive prob­lems can get in the way of safe driving.

The insur­ance com­pa­ny All­state recent­ly start­ed a research study to eval­u­ate inno­v­a­tive ways to alle­vi­ate this prob­lem. All­state is now offer­ing for free the InSight pro­gram (a Posit Sci­ence pro­gram) to sev­er­al thou­sand 50–75 year-old, auto pol­i­cy-hold­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia, as well as to some poten­tial clients. They rec­om­mend par­tic­i­pants to devote at least 10 hours to the train­ing exer­cis­es. They expect the soft­ware exer­cis­es to reduce risky dri­ving maneu­vers and improve stop­ping dis­tance. The goal is to see whether com­put­er­ized brain train­ing can help reduce the num­ber of acci­dents in the group par­tic­i­pat­ing in the exer­cis­es com­pared to the group of pol­i­cy-hold­ers who are not. InSight focus­es most­ly on visu­al pro­cess­ing but pri­or stud­ies, con­duct­ed by Dr. Jer­ri Edwards (whose inter­view you can find at the end of this chap­ter) have shown that com­put­er­ized pro­gram focus­ing on visu­al aware­ness can indeed improve dri­ving skills.

An increas­ing num­ber of traf­fic schools in Europe and Cana­da, as well as US com­pa­nies that employ large num­bers of dri­vers, are adding a new tool to their assess­ment and train­ing toolk­it: the Dri­ve­Fit tech­nol­o­gy, devel­oped by Cog­niFit. This pro­gram was award­ed the pres­ti­gious Prince Michael Inter­na­tion­al Award for Road Safe­ty for its ‘outstanding con­tri­bu­tion to road safe­ty’ in the UK. Dri­ve­Fit is a suite of pro­grams aimed at help­ing to assess and build the cog­ni­tive, psy­chomo­tor and per­son­al­i­ty skills need­ed by novice, senior and fleet dri­vers. The prod­uct is dis­trib­uted by coun­try-spe­cif­ic agree­ments with chains of traf­fic schools, such as Young Dri­vers of Cana­da (over 100 cen­ters) and the British School of Motor­ing (BSM) in the UK (with 107 centers).

Accord­ing to non-pub­lished research from dri­ving train­ing experts at the British School of Motor­ing, learn­ers who trained with MAP (Men­tal Alert­ness Pro­gramme, devel­oped by Cog­niFit for BSM, build­ing on Dri­ve­Fit) record­ed a 16 per­cent high­er pass rate (of the exam required to obtain a dri­ving license) than ones who did not use the program.

Keep learn­ing by read­ing more arti­cles in the Resources sec­tion, and also please con­sid­er join­ing our free month­ly Brain Fit­ness eNewsletter

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg.

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