Visual search patterns in older and younger drivers
Despite substantial research on visual function among older drivers, there is a paucity of research on how age-related changes in visual search patterns and other functional abilities impact on driver behaviour. This study investigated visual search, cognitive performance and driving performance of younger (25-35 years) and older drivers (65-75 years) in a high-level driving simulator. Participants completed two simulated test drives, incorporating complex and hazardous events. Driving measures included speed and braking and steering responses. Data from a FaceLAB eye tracking system was linked with the driving scenario to provide information on time to fixation and fixation duration for critical stimuli and events in the driving environment. Overall, the findings indicated that older drivers travelled at slower speeds and were more variable in their travel speed than younger drivers. Older drivers detected hazards later than younger drivers and differed in the proportion of time looking at hazards, the road ahead, peripheral areas and the speedometer. The relationship between visual search strategies, driving performance and a range of cognitive measures was also explored. The study provided a useful model for evaluating visual strategies and potential interventions for drivers with vision impairment.