Identification and Assessment of Preventative Methods to Mitigate Cognitive and Physical Declines Which Influence Driving Performance of Older Drivers

Principal Investigator(s):

Nichole Morris, Director, Human Factors Safety Lab, Mechanical Engineering


  • Laura Hemmy, Assistant Professor, Medical School Departments
  • Laura Hemmy, Assistant Professor, Medical School Departments

Project summary:

Older drivers are most at risk of serious and fatal injury in crashes per vehicle mile driven compared to younger age groups due to a combination of physical, cognitive, and sensory declines. Older Minnesotans, 65 years and older, are expected to represent 20 percent of the state population by 2025, with an overall increase of 122 percent from 2010-2040. Driving is an integral part of living independently in our society and it is critical to the safety and well-being of the state that older drivers are supported to maintain safe mobility for as long as possible.

Older adults' awareness of cognitive ability may play an important role in awareness of driving ability. However, many older drivers cannot accurately monitor and appraise their own declines in driving performance. As such, it is important to consider accessible, preventative methods that may improve older driver awareness and attention for driving. Previous research has shown an improvement in driving performance among older drivers who used an in-vehicle coaching app, RoadCoach, for six weeks. Further, research has also shown attentional improvements among individuals who engage in mindfulness meditation. This project aims to test the efficacy of two treatments, an app-based, real-time, in-vehicle coaching system and a mindfulness meditation training, as individual or combined solutions to improve older driver performance. The randomized clinical trial would include 120 older drivers who will have their baseline driving performance tested over a four-week period, followed by 12 weeks of treatment exposure, and then measured in a final four-week washout period.

The objectives are to: 1) provide additional guidance on the efficacy of the coaching app to improve older driver performance and safety over a prolonged exposure period; 2) determine the strength of mindfulness meditation training on improving attention and driving performance; and 3) determine how the two treatments combined may result in additional gains in performance over each individual treatment.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2023006
  • Start date: 07/2022
  • Project status: Active
  • Research area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow
  • Topics: Driver Performance and Behavior