Visual/cognitive correlates of vehicle accidents in older drivers

Publication:  Psychology and Aging
Lab/University:  University of Alabama, Birmingham
Author:  Owsley C, Ball K, Sloane ME, Roenker DL, Bruni JR.

Older drivers have more accidents per miles driven than any other age group and tend to have significant impairments in their visual function, which could interfere with driving. Previous research has largely failed to document a link between vision and driving in the elderly. We have taken a comprehensive approach by examining how accident frequency in older drivers relates to the visual/cognitive system at a number of levels: ophthalmological disease, visual function, visual attention, and cognitive function. The best predictor of accident frequency as recorded by the state was a model incorporating measures of early visual attention and mental status, which together accounted for 20% of the variance, a much stronger model than in earlier studies. Those older drivers with a visual attentional disorder or with poor scores on a mental status test had 3-4 times more accidents (of any type) and 15 times more intersection accidents than those without these problems.