The effect of a new road safety device with auditory alerts on older drivers
Porter, Michelle M.
Canadian Multidisciplinary Road Safety Conference
The purpose of this study was to examine a newly designed road safety device as used by older drivers. The Otto Driving Companion (Persen Technologies, Winnipeg, MB) is a portable device that provides drivers with "instant information about [their] driving environment" and can act as a data logger. The device has a global positioning system (GPS) receiver so it can determine the vehicle’s location and speed approximately every second. If the speed limit has been exceeded, the driver will immediately be given an auditory alert telling them "Speed Limit Exceeded". In addition, the Otto will provide auditory alerts when the driver approaches potential hazards (e.g., a "Crosswalk"). Using the OttoLog feature and Persen Technologies’ software, driving patterns can be captured, saved and analyzed offline. This means that, for example, actual driving speed can be compared to the speed limit, across many days of driving. Although older drivers are not as likely to speed as young drivers, older drivers are more limited in their ability to quickly process all the visual information available during driving. This means looking at their speedometer might result in difficulties with seeing everything in their driving environment. Also, because there is a lot of visual information on our roads today they might not see warning signs (such as speed limit signs) at the side of the road. Therefore, auditory alerts might improve their road safety. Older drivers (69 to 91 years old, n = 12) completed a two-week study examining their speeding behaviours as well as their responses to the Otto. In the first week of the study only the data logging features of the Otto were operational, whereas in the second week, the auditory alerts were turned on. During the first week the subjects were unaware that their driving between week one and two would be compared. At the end of the second week the drivers were asked to respond to several questions about the Otto. In addition, their speed information across both weeks was examined to determine if the Otto resulted in less time above the speed limit, when auditory alerts were provided. Most drivers found the Otto to be useful, although a few drivers found the Otto to be a distraction. The subjects did speed less often (p < 0.05) in week two when the auditory alerts were turned on as compared to week one when the auditory alert feature was turned off. As most subjects found the Otto useful, and speed reductions did occur, this device seems to hold some promise as a road safety device for older drivers.