Brain-training programs teach old drivers new tricks
Decades after learning to drive, older drivers might need a refresher course. In fact, some major auto insurance providers have been exploring innovative training programs to help senior drivers stay sharp.
Crash rates start to increase for drivers over 75 and dramatically increase for those over 80, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. According to the Government Accountability Office, some necessities for safe driving (good vision and an ability to process information quickly) can decline as people age.
Computerized "brain training" might help older drivers compensate. This type of cognitive training involves using software that simulates vehicles moving into a driver’s field of vision, and helps the test-taker identify the timing and positioning of these vehicles. One program on the market, called DriveSharp ($89), claims it will help drivers respond faster, stop sooner to avoid crashes and process several moving objects on the road.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests that accident rates decreased by half for seniors who completed the computerized brain training.
Will brain training get me an insurance discount?
Allstate launched a pilot program in Pennsylvania in 2008 to test the effectiveness of brain-training software called InSight. The software was provided for free to participants over age 50, and their improvement was monitored. The program wrapped up in 2009, and the results still are being examined. Allstate has not yet offered any insurance discounts to policyholders who participated in the InSight program.
Meanwhile, since 2004, State Farm has offered incentives to Alabama drivers over age 75 if they participate in its evaluation program for older drivers. Participants complete a test of their cognitive driving skills. If they do well, they receive premium discounts.
Although auto insurance discounts for completion of high-tech driver training programs are not yet widespread, the interest of some of the nation's biggest insurers could be a sign that they are considering discounts for seniors who train to become safer drivers.
Do I need training?
Do you need insurance discounts more than the average driver? According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fragility generally increases around age 60. That means older drivers are more likely to suffer injuries in a crash and need further expensive medical care. Of course, insurance companies already know these statistics.
Even if brain-training software might not get you a discount yet, other programs exist to help ease increasing insurance rates, and states are trying to help older drivers become safer on the road.
Nearly half of the states have carried out practices recommended by the Federal Highway Administration to make roads safer and easier to navigate for older drivers. Some states have launched improved driver assessment tests that include mandatory vision screening, according to the Government Accountability Office.Moreover, 36 states have mandated auto insurance discounts for older drivers who take a state-approved driver safety course (including AARP's Driver Safety Program). Even in the states without such requirements, some car insurers will grant discounts.