AAA will fund a study to track 3,000 senior drivers as part of a project that should help them understand the safety and transportation needs of aging U.S. citizens.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is directing $12 million to Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health so that researchers can study the health factors and driving behavior affecting older drivers over the course of the next five years, according to Reuters.
The foundation's Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project should help them learn the effects of factors like deteriorating vision and prescription drug use on driving.
"We honestly don't feel that if you were to interview traffic safety experts, they would admit that we know enough today about how to absolutely guarantee that we can provide the best guidance services, training and vehicle design to take into consideration limitations older drivers may have," said Peter Kissinger, CEO of the AAA Foundation, according to Reuters.
Five study sites in places like New York, California and Colorado will start recruiting drivers this month between the ages of 65 and 79. All of their vehicles will be fitted with GPS devices in order to capture real time driving patterns.
The data they obtain will let researchers figure out maneuvers that make, and where seniors like to drive. Accident records will also be monitored.
Participants have to undergo yearly medical examinations in order to keep track pf cognitive functions and physical state.
"It's a very comprehensive data collection," said Columbia University epidemiologist Guohua Li, LongROAD's principal investigator. "We want to be ahead of the curve to address emerging issues rather than looking back and relying on retrospective data."
Li believes that the most important outcomes of this study will be assessments of medication impact on driving safety, along with evaluations of new vehicle technologies that help older drivers.
"Seniors need to be protected more in a vehicle," said Kara Macek of the Governors Highway Safety Association. "Due to their fragility, their bodies are not always able to withstand the same amount of force the older they get."
All participants will receive modest compensation for their five-year commitment and willingness to be tracked on the roads.