Development of a test battery to identify older drivers at risk for self-reported adverse driving events.
OBJECTIVES: The purposes of this study were (1) to develop a battery of tests that assessed a wide range of functional abilities relevant to driving yet could be performed in a clinician's office and (2) to determine which of these tests were most closely associated with self-reported adverse driving events. DESIGN: A cohort study. SETTING: An urban community. PARTICIPANTS: Participants were drawn from the Project Safety cohort, a probability sample of noninstitutionalized older persons in New Haven, Connecticut, initiated in 1989. The current study included surviving, active drivers in the cohort (N=125). MEASURES: The test battery assessed visual, cognitive, and physical abilities potentially relevant to driving, and was administered in participants' homes by trained interviewers between October 1994 and July 1995. Outcome measures included the self-report of a crash, moving violation, or being stopped by police in any Project Safety interview since the inception of the cohort. Analyses compared performance on the elements of the test battery with participants' histories of adverse driving events. RESULTS: Of the 125 drivers, 50 (40%) had reported an adverse event in a mean period of 5.76 (+/-.25) years before the current interview. The elements of the test battery independently associated with a history of events, adjusting for driving frequency, included near visual acuity worse than 20/40 (adjusted odds ratio 11.90), limited neck rotation (OR 6.10), and poor performance on a test of visual attention, the number cancellation task (OR 3.00). The resulting regression equation yielded a sensitivity of 80%, a specificity of 55%, and an area under the curve of .75 by receiver operating characteristic analysis. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest it may be possible to identify individuals potentially at risk for self-reported adverse driving events using simple tests of functional ability. If validated, such an approach could be used to identify individuals who need a more detailed assessment of functional abilities to determine the severity and etiology of impairments, and their effect on driving performance, as well as possible interventions to correct or compensate for the impairments.