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Older drivers are at increased risk of intersection crashes. Previous work found that older drivers execute less frequent glances for detecting potential threats at intersections than middle-aged drivers. Yet, earlier work has also shown that an active training program doubled the frequency of these glances among older drivers, suggesting that these effects are not necessarily due to age-related functional declines. In light of findings, the current study sought to explore the ability of older drivers to coordinate their head and eye movements while simultaneously steering the vehicle as well as their glance behavior at intersections. In a driving simulator, older (M = 76 yrs) and middle-aged (M = 58 yrs) drivers completed different driving tasks: (1) travelling straight on a highway while scanning for peripheral information (a visual search task) and (2) navigating intersections with areas potential hazard. The results replicate that the older drivers did not execute glances for potential threats to the sides when turning at intersections as frequently as the middle-aged drivers. Furthermore, the results demonstrate costs of performing two concurrent tasks, highway driving and visual search task on the side displays: the older drivers performed more poorly on the visual search task and needed to correct their steering positions more compared to the middle-aged counterparts. The findings are consistent with the predictions and discussed in terms of a decoupling hypothesis, providing an account for the effects of the active training program.







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Portions of this research were funded by a gift from the Arbella Insurance Charitable Foundation and by the New England University Transportation Center to Donald Fisher and Liberty Mutual – UMass Amherst Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship awarded to Yusuke Yamani.