Wichita State News
Photo: Carlos Malache
WSU's Psychology Department is conducting research that could help senior citizens keep their driver's licenses longer.

Helping elderly drivers is the goal of Wichita State research

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rui Ni, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Visual Perception and Cognition Lab, studies how humans process visual information and how this visual process changes as we age.

“The goal of this line of research is to explore different procedures to train older adults to improve their driving-related visual functions,” said Ni. “Each of the procedures will allow us to examine one or multiple specific visual functions that can be potential predictors for accident risk for older drivers.”

The study uses driving simulators at WSU’s Visual Perception and Cognition Lab to study how drivers process visual information, especially under limited-visibility conditions. Research findings could help develop methods to evaluate and train senior citizens to improve their driving performance.

“With tools that can improve driving performance, we may be able to keep older drivers on the road longer,” said Bobby Nguyen, WSU Ph.D. student and researcher at the Visual Perception and Cognition Lab. “All in all, our ultimate goal is to improve driving safety for all drivers.”

According to Ni, the current study is based on the findings of a 2010 study he helped conduct that found consistent visual perception training can actually improve the vision of elderly adults

“Driving is a great means for older adults to maintain their independence. It’s about their mobility,” Ni said. “That’s why we’re doing research on training procedures; to help them drive for longer and be safer on the road.”

Ni holds a doctorate in biophysics from the Institute of Biophysics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and has been teaching at WSU since 2008.

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