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Drivers over-65 ‘slower at processing distracting objects’

Drivers over-65 ‘slower at processing distracting objects’
31st October 2015

New research suggests that it’s more important than ever for over-65s to undertake regular eyesight tests to ensure they are safe driving on the roads.

A recent study led by psychologists at Nottingham Trent University has found that older people process visual information just as quickly as those aged between 18 and 30, however people between the ages of 65 and 84 have vision that is three times slower than younger people when required to cope with distractions.

This could make older people more dangerous drivers, the research published in the Journal of Vision, suggests, with additional distracting objects added to the computer-based test resulting in significantly slower processing times for the original object.

Researchers claim that the investigation demonstrates evidence of age-related decline in the speed at which people can correctly process visual information. This could have implications for everyday tasks and situations such as driving.

Commenting on the results, Dr Duncan Guest, a psychologist in Nottingham Trent’s University’s School of Social Sciences, said: “The difference in task demands of having to remember two items rather than one seems small, yet this led to a large slowing in processing speed for older people.”

When it comes to driving, Dr Guest explained that the research could mean that older people are slower at encoding and storing information about multiple other vehicles, road signs, buildings, pedestrians and potential hazards.

He added that these latest research findings could go on to help in more specific situations such as in a driving scenario and could lead to training sessions to help older people to improve these processes. However, according to the Association of British Insurers, people who are over the age of 70 are half as likely to be involved in accidents as 18-to-20-year-old drivers. This is reportedly due to older people taking more care not to drive in bad weather and also preferring to drive during the day and taking shorter, familiar journeys.

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