May 1998

Test of Divided Visual Attention Predicts Automobile Crashes Among Older Adults

Author Affiliations

Copyright 1998 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1998

Arch Ophthalmol. 1998;116(5):665. doi:10.1001/archopht.116.5.665


Visual Processing Impairment and Crash Risk Among Older Adults

Cynthia Owsley, PhD; Karlene Ball, PhD; Gerald McGwin Jr, MS; Michael E. Sloane, PhD; Daniel L. Roenker, PhD; Milton F. White, MD; E. Todd Overley, OD, MS

Context  Crash risk in older drivers has been associated with visual acuity loss, but only weakly so, suggesting other factors contribute. The useful field of view is a measure that reflects decline in visual sensory function, slowed visual processing speed, and impaired visual attention skills.

Objective  To identify whether measures of visual processing ability, including the useful field of view test, are associated with crash involvement by older drivers.

Design  Prospective cohort study with 3 years of follow-up, 1990-1993.

Setting  Ophthalmology clinic assessment of community-based sample.

Patients  A total of 294 drivers aged 56 to 87 years at enrollment.

Main Outcome Measure  Motor vehicle crash occurrence.

Results  Older drivers with 40% or greater impairment in the useful field of view were 2.2 times (95% confidence interval, 1.2-4.1) more likely to incur a crash during 3 years of follow-up, after adjusting for age, sex, race, chronic medical conditions, mental status, and days driven per week. This association was primarily mediated by difficulty in dividing attention under brief target durations.

Conclusion  Reduction in the useful field of view increases crash risk in older drivers. Given the relatively high prevalence of visual processing impairment among the elderly, visual dysfunction and eye disease deserve further examination as causes of motor vehicle crashes and injury.