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Mid-America Transportation Center

Assessing and Improving the Cognitive and Visual Driving Fitness of Older Long Haul Truck Drivers

Final Report
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University

University of Kansas Medical Center

Principal Investigator
Shelley Bhattacharya
PI Contact Information
sbhattacharya@kumc.edu
Total Project Cost
$ 121,519
Agency ID or Contract Number
69A3551747107
Start Date
7/1/2017
End Date
7/31/2018
Brief Description of Research Project
Driving is a highly dynamic task that requires intact cognitive and visual skills to perform safely. Driving trucks that are loaded with hazardous materials require even more careful planning and consideration to avoid unanticipated shifts in the center of gravity associated with sharp turns while speeding (slushing) or liquid surge associated with sharp braking. Such planning and consideration are highly dependent on cognitive and visual skills for accuracy. In the first year of this proposal, we will develop a driving fitness assessment battery that consists of tests that have been shown in the geriatric literature to be reliable and valid measures of driving-related cognitive and visual skills. These tests consist of the Snellen Maze Test, Trails A and B, Range of Motion and Gait Speed. Cognitively, the Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) has had significant limitations in driving fitness; therefore, alternative cognitive tools such as the Saint Louis University Mental Status (SLUMS) exam will be used. Drivers over age 60 licensed to engage in the hauling of hazardous materials over long distances will be recruited and given this battery of tests to: 1. Assess their cognitive and visual fitness, 2. Establish the usefulness and effectiveness of these tests to drivers before embarking on the journey, and 3. Identify potential risk factors that contribute to unsafe driving. We anticipate that this part of the study will be helpful in identifying drivers who have cognitive and/or visual impairments that may make driving a truck carrying hazardous materials unsafe. A unique aspect of this part of the study is the possibility of improving driving fitness by offering drivers with demonstrated cognitive and visual deficits the opportunity to retrain and improve such skills in a technologically advanced high fidelity simulator. The Kansas Department of Transportation will collaborate with us for recruitment of our subjects.
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Impacts/Benefits of Implementation
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