Photo/IllutrationA photo for illustrative purposes shows a subject engaged in the driving simulation experiment. (Provided by Nagoya University associate professor Nobuyuki Kawai)

Elderly drivers are more likely to lose their cool when forced to repeatedly stop at red traffic signals, making them more prone to reckless driving than their younger counterparts, a study found.

A research team headed by Nobuyuki Kawai, an associate professor of cognitive science at Nagoya University, used a driving simulator with a large screen to examine the anger and annoyance levels of both young and old drivers when they had to stop at four straight red lights.

The experiment was conducted on 20 people aged 65 to 74 and 22 people between 19 and 31 years old.

The results showed that the irritation level among elderly drivers was higher after the simulation than before they took the test. No differences were recorded among the younger group.

When the test subjects hit all green lights in the simulation, no change in anger level was observed in either group.

The older drivers who had to stop at red lights also showed a significant increase in oxyhemoglobin in the left frontal lobe, indicating they became more aggressive.

Kawai said motorists who can easily get angry are more likely to engage in reckless driving.

“I want elderly people to drive carefully, knowing there is the possibility that they are more easily irritated,” Kawai said. “We will next survey ways to control anger during driving.”

The study was published in the bulletin of the Japanese Psychological Association.