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Accid Anal Prev. 2012 Mar;45:711-7. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2011.09.040. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Distracted driving in elderly and middle-aged drivers.

Author information

1
University of Iowa, Department of Neurology, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA. kelsey-thompson@uiowa.edu

Abstract

Automobile driving is a safety-critical real-world example of multitasking. A variety of roadway and in-vehicle distracter tasks create information processing loads that compete for the neural resources needed to drive safely. Drivers with mind and brain aging may be particularly susceptible to distraction due to waning cognitive resources and control over attention. This study examined distracted driving performance in an instrumented vehicle (IV) in 86 elderly (mean=72.5 years, SD=5.0 years) and 51 middle-aged drivers (mean=53.7 years, SD=9.3 year) under a concurrent auditory-verbal processing load created by the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT). Compared to baseline (no-task) driving performance, distraction was associated with reduced steering control in both groups, with middle-aged drivers showing a greater increase in steering variability. The elderly drove slower and showed decreased speed variability during distraction compared to middle-aged drivers. They also tended to "freeze up", spending significantly more time holding the gas pedal steady, another tactic that may mitigate time pressured integration and control of information, thereby freeing mental resources to maintain situation awareness. While 39% of elderly and 43% of middle-aged drivers committed significantly more driving safety errors during distraction, 28% and 18%, respectively, actually improved, compatible with allocation of attention resources to safety critical tasks under a cognitive load.

PMID:
22269561
PMCID:
PMC3266512
DOI:
10.1016/j.aap.2011.09.040
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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