BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The use of blue lights in instrument panels may help elderly persons drive at night, according to research from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
Older drivers often suffer from a condition called presbyopia, which makes focusing on an object more difficult. Institute researchers believe blue light is perceived and processed more quickly by elderly drivers than lights in the yellow-to-red spectrum.
The findings are part of a three-year study of elderly drivers commissioned by Toyota Motor Corp. Toyota retained the university's Locomotion Research Laboratory in Blacksburg, Va., to help answer questions about how older drivers see, hear and react to features inside and outside their vehicles.
Toyota hopes the work will influence designs of visual displays, icons, instrument panels, windshields and auditory signals.
Thurmon Lockhart, principal investigator for the Toyota research, said the study team is working with local volunteers with an average age of 70. The volunteers are helping the lab determine the ideal color, brightness and duration to use in displaying information. The lab also is looking for recommendations for the right size and thickness for numbers, words and symbols when they are displayed and at what angle they should be presented.
Another conclusion of the lab: Elderly drivers respond poorly to high-pitched auditory signals, such as sirens, or the beeping of a backup warning device. Lockhart said the research indicates that older drivers respond better to sounds that are cautious rather than urgent.
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