Elderly drivers are needed to volunteer for a study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center on driver mobility and safety.
Dr. Matt Rizzo, director of UNMC’s Mind & Brain Health Labs, says they hope to improve the understanding of how brain aging affects driver behavior.
“It’s primarily a study of older drivers, ages 65 and older, who have a variety of cognitive abilities or impairments,” Dr. Rizzo says, “ranging from healthy, normal to beginning to have some decline and maybe even early Alzheimer’s disease.”
Tests will be run in the lab on each person’s decision-making abilities and memory and they’ll also be studied on the road after their personal vehicles are outfitted with some special equipment.
“They’re like black boxes you’d put in an airplane,” Rizzo says. “They’re unobtrusive and they make measurements off the car and they show what the drivers do. We have ways of telling whether there’s been a potentially unsafe event and we can go back and analyze and relate to a patient’s capabilities and cognitive capacities.”
The sensors will provide detailed information on driving behavior, strategy and tactics over several months.
Data from the study may be used to develop strategies for advising patients and families on driving safety, fitness to drive, and interventions to promote independence and mobility in older drivers.
“Being old, in and of itself, is not a reason not to drive,” Rizzo says. “It’s the impairments that come with aging that reduce your capacity so that people who are expert drivers lose their powers, their powers wane. Our goal is to be able to predict, to advise people whether they can drive safely or not.”
Around 80 volunteers are needed and they will be compensated. To be eligible for the study, you must be between 65 and 90, have a valid driver’s license, at least five years of driving experience, and drive 50 miles or at least one hour per week.
For more information, contact the lab at (402) 559-6870 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hear the full interview with Dr. Rizzo below: