Does automatic transmission improve driving behavior in older drivers?
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Background: Most older drivers continue to drive as they age. To maintain safe and independent transport, mobility is important for all individuals, but especially for older drivers. Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate whether automatic transmission, compared with manual transmission, may improve the driving behavior of older drivers. Method: In total, 31 older drivers (mean age 75.2 years) and 32 younger drivers – used as a control group (mean age 39.2 years) – were assessed twice on the same fixed route; once in a car with manual transmission and once in a car with automatic transmission. The cars were otherwise identical. The driving behavior was assessed with the Ryd On-Road Assessment driving protocol. Time to completion of left turns (right-hand side driving) and the impact of a distraction task were measured. Results: The older group had more driving errors than the younger group, in both the manual and the automatic transmission car. However, and contrary to the younger drivers, automatic transmission improved the older participants’ driving behavior as demonstrated by safer speed adjustment in urban areas, greater maneuvering skills, safer lane position and driving in accordance with the speed regulations. Conclusion: Switching to automatic transmission may be recommended for older drivers as a means to maintain safe driving and thereby the quality of their transport mobility.
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