March 8, 2011
Elderly drivers half as likely to see pedestrians
Elderly drivers (65 and older) might have more time behind the wheel, but they also have a limited field of view when it comes to driving, according to a study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers published Monday in an online edition of Accident Analysis and Prevention. The study found that elderly drivers are half as likely to see pedestrians on the sidewalk, and compensate in part by driving more slowly.
BGU researchers tested elderly and younger (28-45) drivers in a traffic simulator and in front of traffic videos, and found that elderly drivers took longer to respond to pedestrian hazards. Approximately half of the pedestrian-related events presented in the videos were difficult for elderly drivers to perceive when compared with the non-elderly drivers.
The simulator drive test also revealed that the elderly performed “braking actions” half as often as the non-elderly group in response to pedestrians on sidewalks and shoulders. However, the elderly group attempted to cope with hazards by reducing their driving speed by almost 20 percent, providing them more time to process the potential hazards and dangers, even if they couldn’t detect them.
“These findings strengthen the notion that elderly drivers, shown to have a narrower useful field of view, may also be limited in their ability to detect hazards, particularly when outside the center of their view,” saidTal Oron-Gilad, a researcher in the BGU Department of Industrial Engineering.
She recommends that while more research is needed, “authorities should be aware of these limitations and increase elderly drivers’ awareness of pedestrians by posting traffic signs or dedicated lane marks that inform them of potential upcoming hazards.”