The purpose of this study was to evaluate gender differences in the relationship between night driving self-restriction and vision function in an older population.
Night driving self-restriction patterns (assessed by questionnaire) were examined cross-sectionally in relation to age, gender, health and cognitive status, depression, and vision function in a sample of 900 elders (mean age, 76 years) living in Marin County, California.
Of the total sample, 91% of men and 77% of women were current drivers. The mean age of the drivers was 73.3 years (range, 58–96 years). Among current drivers, women had slightly better vision function than men on most measures (low-contrast acuity, contrast sensitivity, low-contrast acuity in glare, low-contrast, low-luminance acuity, and glare recovery) but were twice as likely as men to restrict their driving to daytime. Men showed significant associations with avoidance of night driving on four spatial vision measures (high- and low-contrast acuity, low-contrast, low-luminance acuity, and contrast sensitivity). For women, in addition to these measures, a significant association was seen for low-contrast acuity in glare. Neither men nor women showed significant associations between driving restriction and performance on the other vision measures examined (glare recovery time, attentional field integrity, or stereopsis). The vision measures most predictive of self-restriction were contrast sensitivity for men and low-contrast acuity in glare for women.
Including both cessation and self-restriction, men over age 85 years are 6.6 times more likely than women to be driving at night. For both genders, vision plays a significant role in the self-restriction decision. A higher percentage of men than women continue to drive at night with poor vision. Men’s night-driving cessation was associated with contrast sensitivity and depression, whereas women’s night-driving cessation was associated with low-contrast acuity in glare as well as age.
Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, California (JAB, MES, LAL); and the School of Optometry, University of California, Berkeley, California (MES, GHP)
Received December 15, 2004; accepted April 5, 2005.