Research Activities

Current studies on driving in older drivers and other populations:

Evaluation of a Simulator Training Program with Automated Driving-Specific Feedback for Older Drivers

Investigators: Sylvain Gagnon (University of Ottawa), Arne Stinchcombe (Saint Paul University), Michel Bédard (Lakehead University), Amy Forster (University of Ottawa) and others.

Summary: In this project, we examine whether driving safety of older drivers can be improved through the use of driving simulation. Interested participants are invited to come to the lab to complete two sessions of simulator training. We use three different training programs and we compare their efficacy. Before and after training, participants are asked to complete an on road course using their own vehicle before and after training in order to document changes in their ability to drive. This project is ongoing in we are currently recruiting participants.

To participate in this study, please fill out the research participation form.

The use of driving simulation in a clinical assessment context

Investigators: Sylvain Gagnon (University of Ottawa), Frank Knoefel (Brain and Mind Research Institute, Bruyère Memory Program, Bruyère Continuing Care, Bruyère Research Institute), Arne Stinchcombe (Saint Paul University & University of Ottawa), Rafik A. Goubran, Vice President (Research and International), Chancellor’s Professor (Carleton University), Stephanie Yamin, (Saint-Paul University), Michael Armstrong (University of Ottawa).

Summary: In this research program, we examine new ways to combine simulator driving outcomes to clinical information that physicians and specialized health professional use to determine driving safety of patients experiencing cognitive decline. The ultimate goal consists in simplifying driving simulator assessment and the translation of its outcomes in a way that will facilitate and increase the validity of the clinical decision process. The project is ongoing.

Sex, Gender and Driving

Investigators: Sylvain Gagnon (University of Ottawa) & Yara Kadulina (University of Ottawa)

Summary: Many factors have an influence on driving safety. For instance, it is known that young males have higher risk of crash than females of the same age. However, some strong biases in our society associate better driving with male drivers while objective safety indicators tell the opposite. What is the influence of sex and gender on driver’s self-perception and perception of other drivers’ ability? How strong are the sex and gender base biases in regards to driving in our society? Using various methods, we conduct studies that explore the influence of sex on driving across the lifespan. This project is ongoing.

Factors leading to texting and driving

Investigator: Sylvain Gagnon (University of Ottawa)

Summary: The use of smartphones while driving is one of the leading causes of crash. Many drivers report having texted while driving. Why do drivers do respond to their device or even initiate the writing of a text? This is the kind of questions we are exploring in the lab. It is known that driving and texting impairs driving. Yet, it is essential to understand why some drivers keep texting regardless of the elevated risk associated with this behavior. In this project, we explore the factors influencing this risk taking attitude towards texting and driving. The project is ongoing.

Development of a three-tiered, standardized process to assess senior drivers

Investigators: Michel Bédard (Lakehead University), Sylvain Gagnon (University of Ottawa) Shawn Marshall (University of Ottawa) and others.

Summary: As the Canadian population continues to age, there are more and more older adult drivers on the roadways. Aging can cause health problems, such as memory or vision problems, that can impact safe driving. This does not mean that older adults with these types of concerns should have their drivers' licenses taken away; many seniors are safe drivers. Further, driving helps many seniors remain independent and mobile. However, to ensure the well being of older adults while at the same time maintaining public safety, we need to find a way to assess the driving abilities of senior drivers to figure out those who are safe, those who require more support or retraining, and those individuals who should no longer be on the road. For our study we will interview senior drivers in Thunder Bay and Ottawa. First, participants will complete a number of assessments to test physical and mental abilities. Then they will complete an assessment on a driving simulator. Finally they will do an on-road driving test with a driving instructor. The information that we collect will help us examine various ways for health care professionals to assess senior drivers in a fair and equitable manner, ensuring they are not unfairly deprived of the driving privilege. This may have a profound effect on their quality of life by promoting independence. The project is ongoing.

A Comprehensive Training Process to Enhance Safe Driving in Older Adults

Investigators: Michel Bédard, Centre for Driving Safety (Lakehead University); Jan Polgar, Faculty of Health Sciences (University of Western Ontario), Sylvain Gagnon, (University of Ottawa) and others.

Summary: Driving safely is important to reduce crashes and their consequences, and to allow older adults to continue enjoying the independence and quality of life afforded by the automobile. To support older adults in driving as safely as possible we plan on conducting further work to enhance driving skills beyond the minimum skills required to hold a driver’s license. This project is the culmination of two previous AUTO21-funded projects (A05-AST and A302-AST) and multiple training advances achieved in recent years and proven to support safe driving. Specifically, we aim to integrate these training components into a single program and provide evidence of the program’s efficacy. The program would be developed to facilitate implementation in the community and then tested using drivers aged 65 and over in four different Canadian cities. Ultimately, we hope to produce a training program that will be valuable and that will be adopted by the driving community. Data collection is terminated.

The Canadian Driving Research Initiative for the Vehicle Safety of the Elderly (CanDRIVE)

Principal Investigators: Shawn Marshall (University of Ottawa), Malcolm Man-Son-Hing (University of Ottawa) and others, including Sylvain Gagnon (University of Ottawa)

Summary: Candrive is a longitudinal study of a large cohort of drivers (over 900 drivers at its start) who were followed for a duration of 5 to 7 years. The research program comprises several sub-studies examining many important questions regarding older drivers’ safety. The empirical portion of the research is now completed and many articles have already been published. The associated investigators are examining the data and will soon publish reports that will have an influence on how drivers who are at greater risk of crash can be better discriminated from safe drivers. Data collection is terminated.

Current studies on aging and cognition:

Exploring the ‘unconscious’ learning influences in working memory paradigms.

Investigators: Sylvain Gagnon (University of Ottawa) & Fatou Sarr (University of Ottawa)

Summary: In this research project, we examine how unconscious contributions to working memory performance (holding a phone number of one’s mind for a short period of time or writing course notes while listening to a lecture) can be explored and discriminated from conscious processing. Previous studies show that previously learned material or associations can either boost or alter working memory performance. We are exploring this issue using a novel paradigm that enables the study of unconscious influences without interfering with conscious memory processing. The project is ongoing.


Back to top