|Description||Rationale: Though previous literature exists that demonstrates the validity of using driving
simulation compared to on-road driving, few studies have examined hazard detection between
two driving conditions. Even fewer studies have specifically examined hazard detection at night.
Results of current research regarding age differences in driving is inconclusive, and night driving
is an under-researched area. Purpose: This study sought to analyze the visual components of
night driving for older adults. Eye tracking technology and driving simulation were combined to
analyze on-road scanning behavior, visual attention, glance patterns, and hazard detection.
Research questions sought to determine if there were significant differences in hazard detection
between: 1) on-road and simulated drives, 2) older adults and younger adults, or any interaction
effect. Design: This quasi-experimental study used a 2x2 repeated-measures factorial design and
examined comparisons between two age groups (older adults v. younger adults) and across two
driving situations (on-road v. simulated). Driving conditions were counterbalanced.
Participants: Participants included 16 older drivers (65+ years) and 17 younger drivers (20-40
yeras). All participants were healthy, community-living adults obtained through convenience
sampling. Methods: Instruments included wearable Tobii Pro eye tracking glasses which tracked
and recorded pupil glances, a STISIM driving simulator, and each participant’s personal vehicle.
In both the on-road and simulated conditions, a pedestrian “hazard” stood at three locations.
Pedestrians stared at their cell phone and appeared to cross the street, though they did not
actually walk. Outcomes examined from the eye tracking recordings in the Tobii Pro Analysis
software included total fixation duration, fixation count, and time to first fixation. Analysis: The
majority of findings indicate that night hazard detection behavior was similar across the driving
conditions with the exception of time to first fixation. Time to detect the hazards was generally
quicker on the road in both age groups. Comparison of the eye tracking measures indicated few
statistically significant differences between older and younger adults’ hazard detection behavior.
Though, older adults did take slightly longer to initially see hazards. Discussion: Findings
indicated that, despite age-related visual decline, older adults detected hazards similarly to
younger adults, especially when assessing on-road performance. However, they may take slightly
longer to see hazards at night which should be considered in self-regulation. Results also support
the use of driving simulators as a safe mechanism to observe driving habits, behaviors, and
mistakes without risk to the driver, evaluator, or environment. Though, fitness to drive
assessment should also include on-road observation due to limitations in absolute validity of
simulation. Future research should place emphasis on analysis on time to first fixation, as it may
offer the most driving-safety related information. Occupational therapists have a vital role in
determining/addressing fitness to drive, reducing risk of crashes, and researching ways to address