Effects of age-related macular degeneration on driving performance

Academic Article


  • PURPOSE. To explore differences in driving performance of older adults with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and age-matched controls, and to identify the visual determinants of driving performance in this population. METHODS. Participants included 33 older drivers with AMD (mean age [M] = 76.6 ± 6.1 years; better eye Age-Related Eye Disease Study grades: early [61%] and intermediate [39%]) and 50 age-matched controls (M = 74.6 ± 5.0 years). Visual tests included visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, visual fields, and motion sensitivity. On-road driving performance was assessed in a dual-brake vehicle by an occupational therapist (masked to drivers’ visual status). Outcome measures included driving safety ratings (scale of 1-10, where higher values represented safer driving), types of driving behavior errors, locations at which errors were made, and number of critical errors (CE) requiring an instructor intervention. RESULTS. Drivers with AMD were rated as less safe than controls (4.8 vs. 6.2; P = 0.012); safety ratings were associated with AMD severity (early: 5.5 versus intermediate: 3.7), even after adjusting for age. Drivers with AMD had higher CE rates than controls (1.42 vs. 0.36, respectively; rate ratio 3.05, 95% confidence interval 1.47-6.36, P = 0.003) and exhibited more observation, lane keeping, and gap selection errors and made more errors at traffic light-controlled intersections (P < 0.05). Only motion sensitivity was significantly associated with driving safety in the AMD drivers (P = 0.005). CONCLUSIONS. Drivers with early and intermediate AMD can exhibit impairments in their driving performance, particularly during complex driving situations; motion sensitivity was most strongly associated with driving performance. These findings have important implications for assessing the driving ability of older drivers with visual impairment.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wood JM; Black AA; Mallon K; Kwan AS; Owsley C
  • Start Page

  • 273
  • End Page

  • 279
  • Volume

  • 59
  • Issue

  • 1