Scientists create video game to help elderly drivers stay safe


A video game that makes elderly motorists safer on the roads has been developed by scientists.

The simple technique requires only a set-top box and a TV — and for users to play regularly. The game called Cognitive Training for Car Driving (CTCD) comes at a time when the number of older car drivers worldwide is increasing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were almost 42 million licensed older drivers in 2016, which is a 56 percent increase from 1999.

This has led to an increase in accidents caused by age-related cognitive decline among motorists.

In the US, about 7,400 older adults (aged 65+) were killed and more than 290,000 were treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle crash injuries in 2016.

But a study of 60 pensioners aged 65 to 80 has found those who played CTCD drove better six weeks later. It tested their reaction times, attention spans and memories.

It was set up in the participants’ homes — and they only had to play it for 20 minutes a day five days a week to reap the benefits.

The volunteers were randomly divided into two groups — one selected for CTCD and the other given other video games (OVG).

Study leader Dr Rui Nouchi, a specialist in aging at Tohoku University in Japan, said: “These results extended our previous findings that regular use of a simple cognitive training game can benefit older adults who drive cars.”

He said his team is now planning to investigate how CTCD can help reduce road accidents among older drivers.

The issue was brought into sharp focus in January after Prince Philip’s luxury car flipped onto its side near the Sandrinham Estate.

A woman in another vehicle broke her wrist. The Duke of Edinburgh, 97, later voluntarily gave up his driving license.

In the game, two signs with two numbers are presented on the TV screen. Participants are asked to select the one with the larger number as quickly as possible.

In attention exercises, participants have to perform two tasks simultaneously.

One involves pink musical notes moving along a circle as they are asked to push a button when it’s hidden behind an orange object with a yellow star.

The other gets them to identify an approaching target and press if it’s a human.

In a speed prediction exercise, a target moves behind a wall from left to right on the TV monitor. Participants have to push the button when it comes out.

Car driving skills, cognitive functions and players’ emotional states were measured before and after the study period.

The results showed that the older adults who played CTCD had improved car driving skills, cognitive functions and felt more invigorated compared to those who played OVG.

Cognitive training works by the brain creating new electrical pathways in a process called neuroplasticity — boosting the number of nerve connections it contains.

It’s increasingly being used by medics, such as psychologists and speech therapists, to help people recover after a brain injury or stroke.