MIT Studies Age And Distracted Driving: What Do Young and Old People Notice?

MIT Studies Age And Distracted Driving: What Do Young and Old People Notice?

A new study from MIT has revealed that while distracted driving is a problem for all drivers—and will always be, whenever there’s a bikini car wash or van fire nearby—young people are distracted by different things than the elderly, and as we get older we’re more easily distracted.

Young people tend to stray their attention to in-car stimuli such as cell phones and text messages, while older people draw their attention to sirens and flashing lights—two things that shouldn’t be inside the car, hopefully.

MIT’s AgeLab got these results by placing volunteers inside a driving simulator, then measuring conditions such as heart rate and tracking eye movement. From this data, MIT also found that as people increase in age, they gain a higher element of risk perception; they’re less inclined to drive at night, during rush hour, or quickly, according to researcher Bryan Reimer, Ph.D.

What’s more interesting is the role that technology plays in distracted driving, according to Reimer. His team examined the self-parking feature in the Lincoln MKS, and whether people could be taught to trust such an automated process and give up their sense of self-control, even temporarily. “In some of our work here we’ve shown that with appropriate training people can begin to trust that technology rather quickly,” said Reimer. “One of the areas we’re looking at right now is how does different levels of education about the technology begin to impact their trust and their desire to use it.”

The conclusion they drew was that technology to fight distraction wasn’t the solution—driver education is. “I don’t think technology combating technology is really going to be an effective solution,” said Reimer. “I think some form of education is desperately needed in the U.S. when it comes to automotive purchases and automotive technology.”

Click the jump to see a video of Reimer’s lab and his research. Also note how it took a genius from MIT to find a good use for a VW Beetle.

[Source: Auto Observer]

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