UMTRI part of nationwide study on safety of older drivers


The U-M Transportation Research Institute is one of five national test sites selected by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to address the well-being of older drivers.

Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) is a five-year $12 million project that will allow researchers to better understand the role of physical and cognitive functions, medical conditions, medications and vehicle technologies in driving safety.

Researchers will also examine how older drivers self-regulate to avoid difficult driving conditions, and the causes and consequences of driving cessation.

 The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety awarded two separate contracts for the project — one to UMTRI and the other to Columbia University, which funds other test sites in New York, Maryland, Colorado and California.

David Eby, research professor and head of UMTRI’s Behavioral Sciences Group, is a co-principal investigator of the overall project, along with Robert Santos of the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. Guohua Li of Columbia University is the principal investigator.

 The Michigan site principal investigators are Lisa Molnar, associate research scientist in UMTRI’s Behavioral Sciences Group, and Lindsay Ryan, assistant research scientist at the Survey Research Center in the Institute for Social Research.

“Like most people, older adults consider driving to be essential to independence and well-being,” Eby said. “With aging, however, comes a higher likelihood of medical conditions that can affect safe driving ability.

“Thus, it is important for society to both help older adults continue driving for as long as they can safely do so and to help people stay mobile once they have decided to stop driving. This multi-state project will provide much needed information to help us solve this pressing societal issue.”

Researchers at U-M, Columbia, Johns Hopkins University, University of California-San Diego, University of Colorado-Denver, the Urban Institute and the Bassett Research Institute will recruit 3,000 active drivers ages 65-79 at five study sites — 600 drivers at each site.

They will follow these drivers over time through annual assessments and interviews, and will fit each driver’s vehicle with a GPS device to learn about their driving patterns.

 Eby, Molnar and Ryan will work with Dr. Raymund Yung and Linda Nyquist of the U-M Institute of Gerontology to recruit age-eligible participants from U-M medical clinics.

Each participant’s car will be fitted with an automatic data-collection device that will record where the vehicle is being driven and some other vehicle-based data. All naturalistic driving data for all sites will be processed at UMTRI by the Behavioral Sciences and Engineering Systems groups.

All participants will engage in a comprehensive assessment of physical, mental and perceptual functioning every two years; have their vehicles visually inspected every other year; complete a questionnaire on health, well-being, attitudes and driving every year; and have all driving trips recorded. The project will also collect medical, crash and driving history records for all participants.

Pilot testing of about 25 drivers will begin at UMTRI early this year and will last for three months before the actual study is launched.



  1. Patricia Pooley
    on January 14, 2015 at 6:14 am

    I would like to participate in this study. I am 79 years old. Please tell me how to sign up. Thank you.

    • Gordon Grant
      on June 12, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      HI Ms. Pooley –

      I have been trying to contact you without success. Are you the Patricia Pooley who served on the School Committee back in the 1970’s? If so, please email me back. I have some questions which I am hoping you could answer. Thank you.

  2. David Smith
    on January 14, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I am a self employed (expert witness in personal injury litigation) 76 year old, having a Ph.D. in Education with emphasis on psychology. I live part time in Ann Arbor and frequently travel by car to my other location in Charlevoix. My wife and I would appreciate learning more about the project and our possibly providing volunteer input. My web site is: Thank you.

  3. James Knol
    on January 14, 2015 at 10:34 am

    I am a general surgeon at University Hospital, 66 years old, and would like to volunteer for the study.

  4. Eunice Burns
    on January 14, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I am 91 and still driving, although I tend to avoid four or more lane highways at night because of lights. In-city driving is not a problem—-yet????

  5. Margaret Taylor
    on January 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Older drivers may have fluctuating conditions causing intermittent periods of physical and/cognitive impairment (“good days and bad days”). I am a 68-year-old retired, fully licensed, clinical psychologist and receive my medical care through U of M clinics with a chronic, fluctuating condition affecting driving behavior among other activities of daily life. I would welcome an opportunity to participate in this study.

  6. Phillip Farber
    on January 14, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Quoting the article: “Thus, it is important for society to both help older adults continue driving for as long as they can safely do so and to help people stay mobile once they have decided to stop driving….”

    I hope this study produces a strong emphasis on policies that support reliable, accessible, and efficient modes like bus rapid transit, light rail and long distance rail. As the percentage older people continues to increase, the best approach to maintaining mobility will be to focus on these alternatives instead of on the idea that “… driving [is] essential to independence and well-being.” Really? Many are coming to believe this mindset is a trap.

  7. Dick Gustafson
    on January 14, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    I am extremely apprehensive about such “right minded” but wrong headed
    programs; these tend to be picked up and amplified by lawyer legal driven organization *** covering concerns.
    I suggest people and families largely self judge these issues very well; the insurance and police systems are working very effectively as backup.

    [Perhaps 10% of my time and energy is currently bureaucraticly consumed with jumping through two university and two research laboratory sets of “safety” hoops: reporting, training, etc, etc, radiation issues, machine shop, tools, fire precautions-proceedures, tractor, crane, fork lift, driving (truck/auto), chemicals
    ( use, storage, disposal ), electronic and electrical hazards: real and imagined;
    many foolish or wrong.
    I’ll stop flying, biking, sailing, hiking, driving, and doing science as my skills degrade. [ now post 70 ]. ]

  8. Ted Wilson
    on January 14, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Check out the baseline study done 5-6 years ago by the U-M occupational therapy unit at Briarwood. Very comprehensive including a driving test.

  9. Mary Badalamenti
    on January 26, 2015 at 9:13 am

    This article makes a good companion to another article about the development of driverless cars. Maybe there is a way to develop driverless cars for the older driver. How about that? I would be able to read a good book while the car drives to my destination. I LOVE progress !!

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