The ability to drive a car is often a lifeline for older people, particularly in rural or isolated areas. When that ability is impaired by the ravages of age, many older drivers can feel isolated by the lack of independence and tend towards a more inactive lifestyle.
In a project designed to increase social inclusion through the use of digital technology, the Intelligent Transport team at Newcastle University have developed a suite of driver aids aimed at assisting drivers who don't feel confident behind the wheel.
Technology such as 'Granny Nav' - a system which points out local landmarks as navigation aids and avoids tricky right turns are being trialled by around 20 drivers in their 80s.
Being comfortable with a known route and avoiding situations where drivers had to judge the speed of oncoming vehicles was highlighted by research as being a major factor in developing the systems which car manufacturers are showing interest in.
In a report by the BBC, Phil Blythe, professor of intelligent transport systems at Newcastle University, said: "We all have to accept that as we get older our reactions slow down and this often results in people avoiding any potentially challenging driving conditions and losing confidence in their driving skills. The result is that people stop driving before they really need to.
"What we are doing is to look at ways of keeping people driving safely for longer, which in turn boosts independence and keeps us socially connected."
"When it comes to driving everyone is responsible, at whatever age, for making sure they are safe on the road. The emphasis should be on supporting older people to continue driving safely so that older people retain their ability to get out and about."
Originally posted on 24/04/2012