Researchers at seven institutions nationwide will share a $12 million grant to study the factors that influence the safety of older drivers, according to a news release.

OT_News-01The study, called the Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers project, or LongROAD, is funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and led by Guohua Li, DrPH, MD, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

The other institutions participating in the project are the University of California in San Diego, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the Urban Institute in Chicago, the Bassett Research Institute in Cooperstown, N.Y., Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the University of Colorado in Denver.

Researchers hope the data from this project will allow better understanding of how physical and cognitive functions, medical conditions, medications and vehicle technologies and adaptive devices affect driving safety. The team also plans to examine how older drivers self-regulate to avoid difficult driving conditions, and the causes and consequences of driving cessation.

“To many older adults, driving is essential for maintaining mobility and independence,” LongROAD co-investigator Linda Hill, MD, MPH, professor and preventive medicine specialist in the UC San Diego School of Medicine, said in the release. “Unfortunately, declines in physical and cognitive functions may compromise the safety of these drivers. This project will provide insight into how to help older adults retain their driving privilege as long as safely possible, and how to provide them with comfortable and convenient transportation alternatives when they stop driving.”

For the study, a total of 3,000 active drivers ages 65-79 will be recruited from five study sites in California, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan and New York, and investigators will follow these drivers through annual assessments and interviews. To learn about their driving patterns, researchers will fit each driver’s vehicle with a GPS device.

“By 2029, more than one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. Understanding their driving patterns, health and transportation needs is a matter of public health and safety for all drivers,” Hill said in the release. “Yet we have very limited observed data about the dynamic interplay between health and driving safety during the process of aging — a knowledge gap identified by the National Institute on Aging as a key strategic research priority. This project aims to close that gap.”

LongROAD study: www.longroadstudy.org/index.cfm