Today’s Solutions: June 29, 2022

Sometimes, one of the biggest impediments to driver safety is an assessment of one’s own ability. North Carolina State University has tested its proof-of-concept of a simple questionnaire that predicts which drivers are most at risk of having an accident. 

“We developed the tool called the Attentional Failure during Driving Questionnaire (AFDQ) so that older drivers can recognize and monitor their ability to drive safely,” says Professor Jing Feng, with the psychology department of North Carolina State University. “This study was focused on determining how effective the technique is at assessing attentional performance, and what it can tell us about actual driving performance.”

Statistically, adults over the age of 70 are more likely to get into fatal car crashes. One big reason for this is the diminishing attentional capacities as we all age, particularly when it comes to our peripheral vision. This is dangerous when driving and motorists need to pay attention to the sides of the car. 

“In addition, many older adults have limited access to professional assessments of their attentional performance, making a freely available self-monitoring technique particularly valuable,” Feng says.

Researchers tested the questionnaire on 411 middle-aged drivers, between the ages of 25 and 64; and 248 older drivers, all of whom were 65 or older. They all answered the AFDQ questions meant to assess the frequency and variety of attentional problems they experience while driving. The questions included queries about their driving history over the past five years. 

While a wide range of attentional issues was not found to be an indicator of the likelihood of a crash, older participants who experienced these issues had been in more crashes in the last five years. Even though age was a strong indicator, these attentional issues remain a major concern. 

“Overall, this study tells us that the AFDQ can be a valuable tool for helping older drivers monitor their attentional capabilities when driving,” says Feng. “Specifically, older drivers who are experiencing repeated challenges with any of the attentional measures may want to seek out a professional assessment or help to ensure that they can drive safely.”

Feng has made the AFDQ available for anyone who would like to assess their own attentional capabilities and ensure safety on the road. 

Source Study: The Journals of Gerontology Two-Part Approach Distinguishing the Occurrence and Frequency of Self-Reported Attentional Failures during Driving to Predict Crash Risks Among Older Drivers | The Journals of Gerontology: Series B | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

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