July 15, 2009
Keith Barry

A software company that specializes in “brain fitness” has released a title aimed at drivers who want to speed up their reaction time and track more objects in their peripheral vision.

DriveSharp by Posit Science features mental exercises the company says trains users’ brain to better process what it sees. Posit claims studies funded by the National Institutes of Health show the exercises lead to safer driving, cut the risk of an accident by 50 percent and speed up processing and reaction time 200 percent.

These gains are especially important for the over-65 crowd. “Many brain functions including the visual behaviors that support good driving decline as we grow older, but that doesn’t mean the brain can’t be rejuvenated,” company co-founder Dr. Michael Merzenich said in a statement. “Using DriveSharp, visual skills supporting safer driving can be very significantly improved for almost all adult drivers.”

In one exercise, Jewel Diver, users track hidden jewels moving across the screen — an exercise that mimics the need to track pedestrians and merging traffic. Another exercise, Road Tour, has users search for specific cars and signs to help boost their field of vision and visual processing speed. Posit found that DriveSharp users cut their stopping distance by 22 feet at 55 miles per hour. Additionally, users expanded their Useful Field of View (UFOV) — the area in which useful visual information can be understood from a single glance.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAF) found the software so valuable it has recommended it to their clubs, as it helps “safely extend driving years,” according to AAAF CEO Peter Kissinger. We’re sure that Posit hopes to sell the software to suburban boomers terrified of what might happen when they have to give up the keys along with their independence — and to older folks who fear they might not pass new elder-focused driving laws so many states are talking about enacting.

Sadly, for those poor souls beyond hope of regaining lost skills, there’s no exercise for drivers needing a reminder that the gas is on the right and the brake is on the left and the turn signal is still blinking.