This week the National Highway Traffic Safety Board captured some headlines with their report on older drivers that offered more grim news: drivers over 65 are far more likely to die in crashes at intersections, and are far more likely to be involved in accidents in intersections. Even as overall rates of traffic fatalities decreased, those for older drivers increased. The solution? Better roads and safety precautions but basically nothing to be done about the deteriorating vision and reflexes of older drivers that contribute to this crashes.
Or can it?
According to research appearing in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, older drivers are not necessarily doomed to accidents. University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers have found that older drivers simply have acquired bad habits, and those habits can be unlearned. “The effectiveness of our training program indicates that at least a major part of older drivers’ problems can be remediated,” says psychologist Alexander Pollatsek, who authored the article with Mathew R. E. Romoser, and Donald L. Fisher after analyzing two earlier studies. “A large percentage of not attending [to the hazards at intersections] is due to some strategy or mindset they’ve gotten into, rather than some problem with the brain,” he continues. “It’s a software problem, not a hardware problem.”