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Contrast sensitivity and night driving in older people: Quantifying the relationship between visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and hazard detection distance in a night-time driving simulator

Jones, P. R. ORCID: 0000-0001-7672-8397, Ungewiss, J., Eichinger, P. , Worner, M., Crabb, D. P. ORCID: 0000-0001-8611-1155 & Schiefer, U. (2022). Contrast sensitivity and night driving in older people: Quantifying the relationship between visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and hazard detection distance in a night-time driving simulator. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 16, 914459. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2022.914459

Abstract

Purpose: (i) To assess how well contrast sensitivity (CS) predicts night-time hazard detection distance (a key component of night driving ability), in normally sighted older drivers, relative to a conventional measure of high contrast visual acuity (VA); (ii) To evaluate whether CS can be accurately quantified within a night driving simulator.

Materials and Methods: Participants were 15 (five female) ophthalmologically healthy adults, aged 55–81 years. CS was measured in a driving simulator using Landolt Cs, presented under static or dynamic driving conditions, and with or without glare. In the dynamic driving conditions, the participant was asked to simultaneously maintain a (virtual) speed of 60 km/h on a country road. In the with glare conditions, two calibrated LED arrays, moved by cable robots, simulated the trajectories and luminance characteristics of the (low beam) headlights of an approaching car. For comparison, CS was also measured clinically (with and without glare) using a Optovist I instrument (Vistec Inc., Olching, Germany). Visual acuity (VA) thresholds were also assessed at high and low contrast using the Freiburg Visual Acuity Test (FrACT) under photopic conditions. As a measure of driving performance, median hazard detection distance (MHDD) was computed, in meters, across three kinds of simulated obstacles of varying contrast.

Results: Contrast sensitivity and low contrast VA were both significantly associated with driving performance (both P < 0.01), whereas conventional high contrast acuity was not (P = 0.10). There was good correlation (P < 0.01) between CS measured in the driving simulator and a conventional clinical instrument (Optovist I). As expected, CS was shown to decrease in the presence of glare, in dynamic driving conditions, and as a function of age (all P < 0.01).

Conclusion: Contrast sensitivity and low contrast VA predict night-time hazard detection ability in a manner that conventional high contrast VA does not. Either may therefore provide a useful metric for assessing fitness to drive at night, particularly in older individuals. CS measurements can be made within a driving simulator, and the data are in good agreement with conventional clinical methods (Optovist I).

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 Jones, Ungewiss, Eichinger, Wörner, Crabb and Schiefer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Publisher Keywords: driving, night, scotopic, visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, driving simulator, glare, aging
Subjects: R Medicine > RE Ophthalmology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Optometry & Visual Sciences
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