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Visual Correlates of Vehicle Accidents in Older Drivers

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Older drivers have more accidents and traffic citations and incur more fatalities per miles driven than any other age group [1]. Because driving is a highly visual task, it is important to note that many older adults also tend to have significant deficits in visual function [2]. Yet, despite intuitions that older adults’ impaired vision should be related to an increased risk for accidents, research to date has failed to establish a strong link between vision and driving in the elderly. For example, several large-sample studies [3-6] have found statistically significant correlations between accidents and various vision tests (e.g., static acuity, dynamic acuity, disability glare), but these correlations are so low (accounting for <5% of variance) that they are insignificant from the practical standpoint of identifying older adults at risk for accidents. Johnson & Keltner [7] have reported a large-sample study in which the small subset of drivers with severe visual field loss in both eyes (196 out of 10,000 studied) had accident and conviction rates twice those of the general population. However, no study to date has established a link between driving and the more typical types of visual field loss found in the elderly. Thus it still remains to be determined if there are any visual variables which have a strong and widespread relationship with driving performance in older adults.

© 1991 Optical Society of America

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