Cognitive Research

Driving Force

Karlene Ball
Karlene Ball (pointing) developed a simple training program that can help elderly drivers stay on the road longer.

Driving is all about speed—not the time it takes a car to get from zero to 60, but the number of milliseconds it takes a driver’s brain to notice and respond to dangers. Some aging adults experience a reduction in their “useful field of view”—the area over which a person can extract information in a single glance without moving the head or eyes. That’s a problem when it comes to driving. And for older adults, the inability to drive can lead to loneliness and health problems.

But over three decades, UAB psychologist Karlene Ball, Ph.D. has developed UFOV Speed of Processing Training, a set of relatively simple exercises that preserve the ability to process visual information quickly—and help keep older drivers on the road longer.

In a national trial, Ball’s training intervention improved older adults’ ability to perform everyday tasks more quickly. Participants who received the training were less likely to become depressed than participants in other training programs and also experienced better health-related quality of life after two and five years.

 

Ball’s UFOV test is now used in several states, including Alabama, to help determine drivers’ fitness to remain on the road. State Farm Insurance also uses it to compare results from older customers with their insurance claims; drivers performing well on the test will get discounts.

 

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