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Look left, then right, then left again

The Insurance Journal recently published a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which caught our attention:

The study found that many drivers aged 70 and up naturally drive more carefully as they notice a decrease in their reaction time. The study also notes that thanks to this natural self-regulation, drivers in the 70-89 year age group have less head-on, rear-end, single-car, and car-pedestrian accidents.  That’ great!

The problem, the study notes, is danger coming from the left or right.

With age, it becomes harder for the human brain to process visual information, especially in the periphery, and most older drivers don’t naturally compensate:  The study counted head-movements of  older drivers and observed that virtually none of them use enough side-to-side and over-the-shoulder glances.

In fact, once they cross into an intersection, older driver consider themselves committed and focus only in the direction of the turn, without inserting additional sideways glances at all.  Therefore, they often miss previously unseen vehicles (compared to younger drivers, who usually insert a quick over-the-shoulder check during the turn).  Consequently, side-impact crashes increase significantly for drivers in the over-70 age group.

The good news: With some active training, side-to-side check performance for older drivers in the study group improved significantly – and so did their safety on the road!

It’s probably a good idea for drivers of all ages to remember the old rule: “Look left – Look right – Look left again” before making a turn.  We promise that we will be more conscious!

Please be safe!

The study was conducted by Matthew Romoser from the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and was published in the Insurance Journal, August 2009.

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