You may have heard about the positive impact that exercise can have on driving, but did you know that brain training can also make you a safer, smarter driver? A study funded by the National Institutes of Health recently found that adult drivers who had cognitive training for memory, reasoning or speed of processing had 50 percent fewer car crashes than those in the control group.
As we age, natural changes may occur in our brain and we can lose the ability to quickly assess and react appropriately to the demands of driving. From something as simple as fatigue and memory loss to something as complex as Alzheimer's, our brain health and overall mental well-being are crucial to the task of driving. Incorporating brain-training exercises into your daily routine can help you maintain the following critical driving skills:
- Attention and reaction time (for example, responding quickly when approaching a green light that turns yellow)
- Concentration (such as paying attention to changes in your driving environment)
- Problem-solving skills (for example, how to get help if you have a flat tire)
- Memory (such as how to get to the doctor's office)
Just as it is important to stay physically fit, it is important to stay mentally fit. You can access a variety of online brain-fitness activities through AARP that are designed to help improve your memory, attention, brain speed and overall intelligence.
Keep the following quick tips in mind as you select activities to sharpen your brain and maintain your safe driving skills.
- Variety: Mastering a new skill gets easier with time and practice, so introduce some variety into the types of activities you choose. By changing exercises on a regular basis, your mind will have to work harder to accomplish the task.
- Challenge: Never let any exercise become too routine — including those for your brain. Challenge yourself with activities that have increasing levels of difficulty.
- Novelty: Try new things. Parts of the brain (such as the prefrontal cortex) are "exercised" most when you learn to master new cognitive challenges.
For more tips and strategies on how to remain a safe driver, consider taking the AARP Smart Driver course — AARP Driver Safety's flagship offering and the nation's first and largest refresher course designed specifically for older drivers. The AARP Smart Driver course is available in a classroom and online, in both English and Spanish. In some states, you may even be eligible for a multiyear insurance discount on completion of the course.*
For more information, go to aarp.org/safedriving or call 877-846-3299.
*The insurance premium discount is not available in all states for the online or the classroom versions of the course. Consult your insurance agent for further details.
Kyle Rakow is Vice President and National Director of AARP Driver Safety at AARP. He directs the largest driver improvement course in America designed for drivers age 50 and older. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.