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Study shows giving up your keys has its down side

SAN FRANCISCO, March 13 /PRNewswire/ -- New study results being published in The Journals of Gerontology (Medical Sciences) indicate that convincing older drivers to give up their keys may not always be such a good idea.

The study of 660 adults aged 63 to 97 showed that people who stopped driving were four to six times more likely to die over a three-year period than their counterparts who still were driving.

The multi-year study, known as the Staying Keen In Later Life, or SKILL, study is funded by the National Institutes of Health. It began in 2000 and has followed people living in communities in the southern United States. University researchers followed study participants over three years in order to report on the connection between driving cessation and mortality.

"We knew from earlier research that cessation of driving generally leads to bad health outcomes," said lead investigator Jerri Edwards, PhD, of the University of South Florida. "We wanted to measure whether giving up your keys actually increased your risk of dying. We were surprised that even after controlling for other factors, the analysis showed that cessation of driving increased mortality risk by four to six times."

Serious mental and physical health decline has long been predictive of driving cessation, because with such deterioration in health people do (and should) stop driving. The surprise in this study was that after controlling for health status and other factors there was a link between driving cessation and mortality. This suggests that physicians may want to track changes in driving status as predictive of health issues. It also raises the possibility that keeping a person driving may improve quality and length of life.

Older people and their family members often have to deal with the difficult issue of when someone of advanced age should stop driving. Crash rates per mile driven increase for people in their 60s and go up substantially among drivers over 70. In fact, only teenagers have higher crash risk than drivers aged 70 and older. Crash fatality rates for drivers over age 75 are actually higher than for all teenagers, except 16 year olds.

"Traditionally, family members are concerned about how to get older drivers to stop driving," said Dr. Edwards. "We now see there are also bad consequences from driving cessation."

Researchers believe that health and mortality declines associated with driving cessation reflect the importance of mobility in our society in meeting social, health care and autonomy needs.

"People really should keep driving as long as they can do so safely," Dr. Edwards advised. "There is other good news on this front from the latest studies on cognitive training and driving."

Dr. Edwards noted that other data from the SKILL Study showed that older drivers who used computer-based cognitive training were 40% less likely to stop driving and were able to maintain their driving patterns more safely.

Those older drivers trained with special computer technology designed to increase their "useful field of view" - the amount of visual information that can be processed in a single glance. Drivers who trained just 10 hours with UFOV(R) technology have been shown to reduce crash risk by 50% in a study presented in January to the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Science has brought us new ways to improve and extend driving," said Dr. Edwards. "It does not need to be a choice between uneasiness about continued driving and negative outcomes from driving cessation. We can now train older drivers to drive more safely, longer."

The UFOV software became commercially available for the first time this past year as a part of the InSight(TM) brain fitness program from Posit Science. It is being tested for consumer acceptance by some national auto insurers, but is also available for purchase directly from Posit Science.

About Posit Science:

Posit Science is the leading provider of clinically validated brain fitness programs. The company works with more than 40 scientists from prestigious universities to design and test its computer-based programs. More than 30 published peer reviewed papers show that in randomized controlled trials the company's patented technologies significantly increase processing speed, improve memory and attention, and enhance the quality of everyday life. Posit Science has received grants from the National Institutes of Health and has received numerous awards and accolades. The company's products, scientists and science are currently featured in the PBS documentaries "The Brain Fitness Program" and "Brain Fitness 2: Sight and Sound." For more information, visit or call 1-800-599-6463.

SOURCE Posit Science
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