Variations in Task Performance Between Younger and Older Drivers:
UMTRI Research on Telematics

Paul Green

February 2001

This paper describes the effects of age on driver performance reported in recent studies of telematics conducted by the author and suggests what can be done to assure telematics products are safe and easy to use for older drivers. The human factors studies reviewed concern (1) measurements of the visual demand of driving using the visual occlusion method, (2) detecting warnings on head-up displays (HUDs), (3) reading electronic street maps, and (4) entering destinations into navigation systems. In this paper, younger is defined as ages 18-30 and older as 65-75.

As expected, the performance of older drivers was much poorer, though the degree was quite substantial. Depending on the driving situation, the visual demand of older drivers was 15-50% greater. Older drivers required 40% longer to respond to warnings on HUDs, 33-100% longer to read maps in a simulator, 40-70% longer to read maps on the road, and 80% longer to enter destinations.

Therefore, to assure safe and easy use of telematics by all motorists, older drivers, the most challenged users, must serve as subjects in safety and usability evaluations. This will be facilitated by (1) participation of those representing the older population in technical discussions to set safety standards that require the testing of older drivers, (2) support for research on older drivers, especially preliminary evaluations of proposed safety standards, and (3) efforts to make older drivers available to organizations conducting safety and usability evaluations.

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