Bassett Research Institute to Contribute Rural Data for Columbia University Study on Older Drivers

March 1, 2015

carroadBassett Research Institute is a key participant in a nationwide study that will observe the driving patterns of older drivers to determine factors that impact driving safety. The study, called LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers), funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and led by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, will gather data from collaborating institutions across the country to assess the factors that affect safe driving for individuals 65 and older. Institutions engaged in project research include Bassett Research Institute; Johns Hopkins University; University of California, San Diego; University of Colorado, Denver; University of Michigan and the Urban Institute. Bassett’s Center for Rural Community Health is the only site focusing on the experience of rural drivers. 

“Older drivers in rural areas often do not have many transportation options,” says David Strogatz, Ph.D., director of the Center for Rural Community Health at Bassett Research Institute. “There is limited public transportation, long distances between destinations and remote areas tend to become isolating if people do not drive or have loved ones that they can depend on. A common dilemma that health care providers encounter is inquiries from older drivers and their families about when driving is no longer safe.” Bassett Research Institute staff will be working with Bassett primary care clinicians to identify 600 active drivers, aged 65-79 years, from the central New York region to participate over the coming five to 10 years.

To measure driving distances, researchers will fit each driver’s vehicle with a GPS device. There will be annual driver assessments and interviews. Data from this $12 million project will help researchers better understand the role of physical and cognitive functions, medical conditions, medications and vehicle technologies in driving safety. “The LongROAD project is uniquely comprehensive in the breadth of information we will have on drivers and their cars,” says Strogatz. “We will combine our own direct, detailed assessments of participants with information from medical records on health conditions and medications.”

The ultimate goal of the LongROAD project is to generate evidence that will inform interventions to support the safety and independence of older drivers. “This project will provide us much-needed insights into how to help older adults retain their driving privilege as long as they safely can, and to provide them with comfortable and convenient transportation alternatives when they stop driving,” says Dr. Guohua Li, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and principal investigator of LongROAD.

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