, Professor, UMD-Electrical Engineering
Most of the research on elderly drivers is understandably concerned with control of the vehicle. The elderly are an increasing proportion of the total population and they are already overly represented in the number of accidents occurring (per mile driven). However, because of this emphasis on control, research with the elderly on the main function of driving, i.e. getting from one place to another, has received relatively little attention. A major facet of this topic involves, at a practical level, spatial orientation and navigation. Besides being of interest in its own right, difficulties maintaining orientation and finding one?s way may interact with vehicle control as a driver becomes distracted or even alarmed by losing their way, and pays less attention to vehicle control or possibly makes erratic corrections en route. The proposed research is a program of investigation of issues of maintenance of spatial orientation and way finding in the context of adult mobility and how this changes with age. The major focus is on driving but other forms of mobility are also touched upon. Four major tasks form the substance program. Task I will assess the orientation and navigation problems that drivers experience. Task II will focus on the nature and extent of drivers? spatial knowledge and how it is organized. Task III will investigate directly how drivers maintain orientation as they travel. Finally Task IV will evaluate age differences in sensitivity to different sources of sensory information for maintaining orientation.