CogniFit's Science blog: Cognitive Skills And Left Turns: It Seems To Get Harder As We Get Older

Cognitive Skills And Left Turns: It Seems To Get Harder As We Get Older

Left turns seems to definitely get harder as we get older. A study produced by the Center for Transportation Studies at the Texas Transportation Institute for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which examined data on crashes in Texas during the 1975-1999 period, found that the probability that an older driver will be involved in a left-turn crash increases with age.

According to U.S. department of transportation statistics for 1994 older adults were nine times more likely to be turning left when involved in an accident.
Why this happens is the interesting part. During a left-turn maneuver, a driver must use many different cognitive skills. A driver must decide when it is safe to start the turn, while cars are approaching, sometimes from more than one direction. The main cognitive abilities involved in this operation are speed, distance and direction estimations. They, together with the general visual functions and spatial processing, become weaker with age.

The weaker the skills, the harder it is to carry out the appointed task. Since making a left turn is really a very cognitively complicated task, involving age-affected skills, making a left turn gets harder as we get older.

So what can be done? Older drivers can use a lot of avoidance techniques like driving only during the day or driving during off hours when traffic is lighter.

But since making a left turn is linked so tightly to certain cognitive skills, improving the cognitive skills would then make left turns easier.