Fading vision forces senior drivers off the road

January 7th, 2009 - 5:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 7 (IANS) Fading vision is forcing senior drivers off the roads, since they feel they can no longer navigate safely. Salisbury Eye Evaluation and Driving Study (SEEDS), conducted by researchers affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, looked at changes in vision, cognition and health status of more than 1,200 licensed drivers aged 67-87 in Salisbury, a community with limited public transportation.

The results reveal that after a year, 1.5 percent of the drivers had given up driving, and another 3.4 percent had restricted their driving.

The most common predictors of stopping or decreasing driving were slow visual scanning, psychomotor speed and poor visuo-constructional skills, as well as reduced contrast sensitivity.

These skills are necessary to help drivers be aware of and respond to other cars, road conditions and road signs. Contrast sensitivity is the ability to detect detail in shades of grey; it is necessary for driving in poor weather and low lighting.

“These skills are important for safe and confident driving where objects are moving at rapid speeds in relation to each other, and timely and accurate judgements are required,” the researchers stated.

The study, which was in part supported by the National Institute of Aging, also found that women were four times more likely than men to stop or restrict their driving, said a Hopkins release.

In addition, drivers who had higher depression scores on the initial test were more likely to have given up or restricted their driving after a year. Previous studies have examined depression as an effect of giving up driving, not as a predictor.

“Older drivers are the fastest growing sector of all licensed drivers in the US,” noted researcher Lisa Keay.

These findings were recently published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

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