Older drivers rated at high crash risk on a computerized vision test are more likely to have driving problems related to distractions in the car, reports a study in the April issue of Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.
Older drivers who show limitations on the "Useful Field of View" (UFOV) test make more driving errors when distracted, suggests the new research, led by Joanne M. Wood, PhD, FAAO, of Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. "This finding provides a basis for predicting those older adults who will be more distractible on the road, and therefore also those who might benefit most from minimizing distraction while driving," the researchers write.
UFOV Predicts Driving Problems Related to Distraction
The study included 92 drivers, average age 74 years, who underwent the computerized UFOV test. Useful field of view is defined as "the area over which a person can extract information in a single glance without moving his or her head or eye." Drivers with limitations in UFOV are more likely to have problems in demanding driving situations, with an increased risk of crashes.
After the UFOV test, the drivers performed a closed-course driving test three times. On two occasions, they did the driving test with in-car visual or auditory distracters, consisting of simple math problems presented on a video screen or audio speaker.
Drivers who had limitations in UFOV were most likely to have problems on the driving test related to both visual and auditory distracters. They also took longer to complete the driving test—possibly reflecting slower driving speeds, which are common among older drivers.
In particular, drivers who scored lower on the "selective attention" subtest of the UFOV had decreased performance on the driving test in the presence of distracters. Drivers with lower scores for selective attention were also more likely to be rated at high crash risk on the UFOV. "This finding suggests that the driving problems elicited in the presence of visual or auditory distracters are greatest for those who are rated at most risk for crashing overall," the researchers write.