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Visual training to retain driving competence — and your independence!

Posted Jul 13 2009 12:00am

Today, Posit Science announced the release of a new computer-based visual training tool, DriveSharp, specifically designed to improve the performance abilities of adult automobile drivers to a degree that can be expected to very substantially impact their driving safety.

This training employs two very important brain plasticity-based strategies to improve your visual assets that support safe driving. The first is the “Useful Field of View Training” developed and patented by Drs. Karlene Ball (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Daniel Roenker (University of Western Kentucky). Their training tool addresses a key problem that arises in older individuals: the progressive contraction of their “useful field of view” (UFOV). As you get older, you progressively lose the ability to accurately detect and respond to visual events in your far visual periphery. Even if you DO detect what’s happening at the far left or far right side of your vision, your response to it is very slow. By age 65, this contraction of your UFOV approaches 25%; by age 80, it is roughly 50%! In our fast-moving world, losing control of one’s peripheral vision is a main cause of driving accidents. You simply don’t see what’s going to hit you — and even if you do, you can’t respond fast enough to avoid a collision.

Ball and Roenker demonstrated that these losses are substantially reversible, through appropriate, intensive training, in almost all older drivers. UFOVs can be re-expanded to relatively youthful ability levels through only a few hours of exercise. The result: About 50% fewer driving accidents in the over-65 population. Moreover, once your UFOV is opened up again, you use it! Benefits of training have been shown to be sustained over at least 5 subsequent years. Of course they can be greater still if you just spend a little time (a few hours) each of those years, driving your UFOV abilities to their peak — to assure that you fully sustain abilities that applied when you were a much-younger driver. You can use DriveSharp repeatedly, over the rest of your days, to keep yourself in fine driving fettle!

The second training program that is included in DriveSharp is designed to improve your ability to keep track of more than one thing happening at the same time. This fundamental visual skill — called “multiple object tracking” (MOT) — also dramatically declines as you get older. In studies conducted in the state of Pennsylvania with the help of Allstate Insurance, we have shown that MOT deterioration also very substantially parallels an increased risk for having a traffic accident as you get older. Again, with a few hours of intensive training, a youthful MOT performance level can be achieved for most individuals. The result: A still FURTHER increase of driving safety.

Allstate Insurance has been an important partner helping us demonstrate the values of this form of training in their older driving cohort. More recently, the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation has examined the research behind these tools, and is strongly endorsing their use by the approximately 50 million AAA club members. If you’ve reached your 50th birthday, DriveSharp training is especially important for upgrading and sustaining your driving competence. It’s all about maintaining your performance abilities in driving as in all other ways at the highest possible level, throughout the second half of life. In fact, EVERY driver can improve these key visual competencies in ways that contribute to faster and more reliable corrective actions behind the wheel!

In case a 50% reduction in the probability of dying behind the wheel (or injuring/killing some other innocent person) is not enough incentive for you to initiate this training, you might be interested to hear about a few other benefits demonstrated by published studies originating with the Ball/Roenker team (including University of South Florida scientist Sherri Willis and a University of Iowa scientist, Fred Wolinsky).

1) You’re healthier after DriveSharp training!
Five years after training, Physical indices of Quality of Life are more than 30% higher — maybe because you get out more. And there is an approximately 30% lower probability that you suffer from depression — perhaps for the same reason!
2) Trainees are much more likely to have retained your driver’s license — and to have sustained their personal independence.
3) After DriveSharp, you are a more confident driver, as expressed by gains in the number of times you drive each week, by an increase in average driving distances, and by your driving more often at night, or in the rain or snow.
4) Without training, you can scare an expert observer sitting in the passenger’s seat next to you because you make many more dangerous maneuvers; once you’re trained visually, he/she can calm down again!
5) Sherri Willis has shown that in the 2 years after you lose that license because your visual reception and visual response abilities have left you, there is a more than 4X greater chance that you pass on to the Happy Hunting Ground. Sustaining your driving qualifications and abilities is literally life-extending.

I can’t think of too many simple things that you could do that would be better for you, especially if you have entered the second half of your time on earth, than spending a few hours completing this game-like training program a time or two each year. It’s a small investment that will pay off with substantially safer driving — and with a longer, healthier, higher-performing, more useful, and more independent life.


Try DriveSharp now: If you are a member of one of the participating AAA clubs, please visit your AAA club’s website for more information and a special offer on DriveSharp. If not, please visit www.DriveSharp.com or call (866)599-6463 to learn more.
Participating clubs are: AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah; Auto Club South; AAA Mid-Atlantic; AAA Southern New England; AAA East Central; AAA Carolinas; AAA Missouri; AAA Allied Group; AAA Washington; AAA Ohio; AAA Arizona; AAA Colorado; AAA New Jersey; AAA Miami Valley; AAA Pioneer Valley; AAA MountainWest; AAA NW Ohio; and AAA Schuylkill County.

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