Vision, ageing and driving

The safety of older drivers is a challenging and emotive issue. While the majority of older drivers are relatively safe, there are a small proportion of drivers who are unsafe, and the number of individuals in this group is likely to increase as our older population grows. One factor that can potentially contribute to reduced driving safety is visual impairment which becomes more prevalent with increasing age. However, while it seems obvious that good vision is critical for safe driving, there is still much debate regarding which specific visual functions are important for safe driving, the level of visual impairment at which driving performance is affected and how various age-related eye diseases impact upon driving performance and safety.

These issues have been addressed in ongoing studies which have used a series of experimental approaches that involve measures of real-world driving performance undertaken on a closed circuit driving course and under on-road in-traffic conditions. Specific areas of research include understanding how visual impairment and age impact on driving performance, quantifying the effect of distracters on driving and identifying vision and non-vision predictors of driving performance and safety. Studies have also assessed driving performance under night-time driving conditions to determine how the age and visual function impact on night-time driving ability, as well as identify ways in which to improve the visibility and safety of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, through the use of innovative clothing configurations. An overview of a selection of these studies will be presented.

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