Better designed roadway intersections can boost older drivers' performance

Changes in roadway intersection design can keep older drivers safer and on the road longer, report University of Florida researchers in the current issue of Traffic Injury Prevention.

Wider road shoulders, right-turn lanes that allow drivers to merge into traffic without stopping and angle intersections no sharper than 90 degrees all led to better driving performance by older and younger drivers involved in a UF study of roadway intersection design.

I think the research shows early support that environmental enhancements are conducive to older driver safety and improved performance, said principal investigator Sherrilene Classen, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions department of occupational therapy. But what we found is that it didnt just benefit older drivers, it benefited the younger drivers involved in the study, some of whom were between the ages of 35 and 54, which is also the safest group of drivers.

In 2003 about one in seven licensed drivers was 65 or older. By 2029, that proportion is expected to rise to one in four drivers, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. Although drivers 65 and older have lower rates of crashes than younger drivers, they are at higher risk for injury or death because of increased fragility.

The UF study is the first to test the Federal Highway Administrations proposed guidelines for highway design to increase safe driving ability of older drivers. Released in 2001, the guidelines include recommendations for four categories of roadway design. The UF researchers, members of the colleges National Older Driver Research and Training Center, focused on the recommendations for intersections in urban areas because of the high prevalence of crashes associated with them.

The study included 71 participants 39 younger drivers between the ages of 25 and 45, and 32 older drivers, aged 65 and older. Each completed a one-hour road course

Contact: Jill Pease
University of Florida

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