Driving is a complex task involving the integration of a range of visual, cognitive and psychomotor skills, many of which are impaired with increasing age. Given that driving is a highly visual task, it has been suggested that the high prevalence of visual impairment in older adults contributes to the decrement in driving performance and safety evident in some older drivers. The research activities of the team focus on investigating a range of research questions concerning the relationship between vision, ageing and driving performance. The research is transdisciplinary in nature involving collaborations with national and international researchers from a range of disciplines including psychology, engineering, audiology, neurology, ophthalmology, cognitive ageing and lighting.
Ocular Disease & Driving
Simulated central field defect while driving
As the driving population ages, the number of drivers with visual impairment will increase, given the age-related increase in the prevalence of ocular disease. The increase in visual impairment in the driving population has a number of implications for driving outcomes. Our research has considered driving performance (assessed under closed and open road conditions), various motor vehicle crash indices and self-reported driving outcomes. We have demonstrated that driving ability and safety are negatively affected by ocular diseases including cataracts , glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and hemianopic field loss, however, further research is needed in this area. Importantly, older drivers with ocular disease need to be aware of the negative consequences of their ocular condition and in the case where treatment options are available, encouraged to seek these earlier for optimum driving safety and quality of life benefits.
Vision & Night Driving
Night-time driving is dangerous, with crash rates being up to 3x higher at night than in the day. Our research on a closed-road circuit has demonstrated that age and the visual status of the driver (blur and simulated cataracts) have negative impacts on night-time driving ability. We have also explored the effect of different types of presbyopic spectacle and contact lens corrections on night-time driving, demonstrating that presbyopic contact lenses have negative effects on some aspects of night driving. In systematic studies of the effects of blur, we have demonstrated that the effects of blur were greatest under nighttime conditions, even for levels of blur as low as +0.50 DS. These results emphasize the importance of accurate and up-to-date refractive correction of even low levels of refractive error when driving at night.
The Vision and Night Driving Questionnaire (VND-Q)
The Vision and Night Driving Questionnaire (VND-Q) is a 9-item self-report measure of vision-related night driving difficulties for older drivers. The questionnaire uses a Likert-type scale format, and its psychometric properties have been validated using Rasch analysis to inform item selection and conversion to interval-level scores. It is especially useful in clinical settings to assist clinicians and researchers in better understanding and tailoring treatment options for older drivers reporting vision-related night driving difficulties.
The VND-Q is available for use without charge to researchers without written permission, provided that they identify the measure as such in all publications. Users should also cite the following article: Kimlin JA, Black A, Djaja N, Wood JM. (2016) Development and validation of a vision and night driving questionnaire. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 36(4), 465-476.
Click this link to download the VND-Q questionnaire and scoring instructions: Vision & night driving questionnaire
Eye Movements & Driving
Example of eye movements while driving on night-time roads
Research into eye movements has become of increasing interest in driving research as it provides insight into how drivers respond to visual stimuli within the driving environment. During driving, eye movements are particularly important to monitor the forward traffic scene to avoid potential hazards, allowing the driver to obtain information from their visual field that is useful for driving. Our studies have explored the impact of ocular diseases, such as glaucoma, on eye movements, both within laboratory-based driving tasks as well as for closed road studies, demonstrating that some individuals with visual impairment may be able to compensate for their loss through more extensive scanning patterns.
Eye tracking is used to explore the visual challenges of night-time driving and better understand what attracts drivers’ attention at night.
Example of eye movements while driving around a closed-road circuit
The Vision & Everyday Function Research Group have several eye and head tracking systems for laboratory and field-based applications, including technology from Tobii (www.tobii.com), ASL Mobile Eye (www.imotions.com/asl-eye-tracking-glasses/) and Pupil Labs (www.pupil-labs.com).
Example of eye movements while viewing driving a static driving-related task