A study investigating the comparative situation awareness of older and younger drivers when driving a route with extended periods of cognitive taxation

This study sought to measure and compare the Situation Awareness (SA) of a younger group of 11 drivers (average age 28.2 years) to that of an older group of 10 drivers (average age 77.2 years), as they traversed a route that included many cognitively taxing elements. This was achieved by recording a participant’s continual commentary of what s/he felt to be of relevance during the drive. These recordings were then transcribed and assessed by computer software capable of abstracting the main concepts from each individual’s or group’s narrative, and calculating scores indicative of Situation Awareness. It was found that the younger drivers scored significantly higher (p < 0.024) than their older counterparts. Furthermore, when the results from the participants who undertook both this and previous studies in the series were compared (see Key, Morris, & Mansfield, 2016), it was found that SA scoring could be importantly influenced by perceptions of a task’s difficulty, rather than its actual difficulty. It was also indicative from the narratives, that the younger driving group had demonstrated a better 360-degree awareness, and enunciated more safety-related concepts.