A new study from the Human Factors Safety Laboratory at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beer-Sheva, Israel, indicates that advanced age does not affect older drivers' ability to perceive hazards and that older drivers are more sensitive to potential hazards than young-inexperienced drivers. The study, "Age Skill and Hazard Perception," to be published in the July issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention, suggests that driving experience improves drivers' awareness of potential hazards and these drivers focus more on potentially risky situations, such as approaching an intersection or pedestrians on a curb, than young drivers. The study involved 21 young-inexperienced, 19 experienced and 16 older drivers (37 years of experience) who viewed six hazard perception movies while connected to an eye tracking system and were asked to identify hazardous situations. Four movies embedded planned, highly hazardous situations and the rest were used as control. The study showed that experienced and older-experienced drivers were equally proficient at hazard detection and detected potentially hazardous events continuously, whereas young-inexperienced drivers stopped reporting on hazards that followed planned, highly hazardous situations. Moreover, while approaching T- intersections, older and experienced drivers fixated more toward the merging road on the right, while young-inexperienced drivers fixated straight ahead, paying less attention to potential vehicles on the merging road. According to BGU researcher Avinoam Borowsky, "We found that with older drivers, in general, their hazard perception abilities remained intact. However, they relied heavily on signs and signals (i.e. signals from other vehicles) to cope with the traffic environment. In their verbal comments, however, older drivers tended to claim that the other road users were responsible for putting them at risk and rarely considered themselves as responsible for hazardous events." The BGU Traffic Lab measures drivers' eye movements and has a driving simulator equipped with an advanced simulation program, a panoramic screen and a 2008 luxury Cadillac sedan, donated by General Motors (GM). The Human Factors Engineering group has worked with GM for more than 10 years, studying driver interaction with vehicle systems to improve driver safety. The research was supported in part by the Ran Naor Foundation and the Paul Ivanier Center for Robotics and Production at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
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