Association of Photopic and Mesopic Contrast Sensitivity in older drivers with risk of motor vehicle collision using naturalistic driving data

Academic Article


  • © 2020 The Author(s). Background: Older drivers have a crash rate nearly equal to that of young drivers whose crash rate is the highest among all age groups. Contrast sensitivity impairment is common in older adults. The purpose of this study is to examine whether parameters from the photopic and mesopic contrast sensitivity functions (CSF) are associated with incident motor vehicle crash involvement by older drivers. Methods: This study utilized data from older drivers (ages ≥60 years) who participated in the Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study, a prospective, population-based study. At baseline participants underwent photopic and mesopic contrast sensitivity testing for targets from 1.5-18 cycles per degree. Model fitting generated area under the log CSF (AULCSF) and peak log sensitivity. Participant vehicles were instrumented with sensors that captured continuous driving data when the vehicle was operating (accelerometers, global positioning system, forward radar, 4-channel video). They participated for 1-2 years. Crashes were coded from the video and other data streams by trained analysts. Results: The photopic analysis was based on 844 drivers, and the mesopic on 854 drivers. Photopic AULCSF and peak log contrast sensitivity were not associated with crash rate, whether defined as all crashes or at-fault crashes only (all p > 0.05). Mesopic AULCSF and peak log sensitivity were associated with an increased crash rate when considered for all crashes (rate ratio (RR): 1.36, 95% CI: 1.06-1.72; RR: 1.28, 95% CI: 1.01-1.63, respectively) and at-fault crashes only (RR: 1.50, 95% CI: 1.16-1.93; RR: 1.38, 95% CI: 1.07-1.78, respectively). Conclusions: Results suggest that photopic contrast sensitivity testing may not help us understand future crash risk at the older-driver population level. Results highlight a previously unappreciated association between older adults' mesopic contrast sensitivity deficits and crash involvement regardless of the time of day. Given the wide variability of light levels encountered in both day and night driving, mesopic vision tests, with their reliance on both cone and rod vision, may be a more comprehensive assessment of the visual system's ability to process the roadway environment.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • BMC Ophthalmology  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Owsley C; Swain T; Liu R; McGwin G; Kwon MY
  • Volume

  • 20
  • Issue

  • 1