Original Study| Volume 22, ISSUE 2, P399-405.e1, February 2021

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On-Road Behavior in Older Drivers With Mild Cognitive Impairment



      Dementia increases the risk of unsafe driving, but this is less apparent in preclinical stages such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). There is, however, limited detailed data on the patterns of driving errors associated with MCI. Here, we examined whether drivers with MCI exhibited different on-road error profiles compared with cognitively normal (CN) older drivers.



      Setting and Participants

      A total of 296 licensed older drivers [mean age 75.5 (SD = 6.2) years, 120 (40.5%) women] recruited from the community.


      Participants completed a health and driving history survey, a neuropsychological test battery, and an on-road driving assessment including driver-instructed and self-navigation components. Driving assessors were blind to participant cognitive status. Participants were categorized as safe or unsafe based on a validated on-road safety scale, and as having MCI based on International Working Group diagnostic criteria. Proportion of errors incurred as a function of error type and traffic context were compared across safe and unsafe MCI and CN drivers.


      Compared with safe CN drivers (n = 225), safe MCI drivers (n = 45) showed a similar pattern of errors in different traffic contexts. Compared with safe CN drivers, unsafe CN drivers (n = 17) were more likely to make errors in observation, speed control, lane position, and approach, and at stop/give-way signs, lane changes, and curved driving. Unsafe MCI drivers (n = 9) had additional difficulties at intersections, roundabouts, parking, straight driving, and under self-navigation conditions. A higher proportion of unsafe MCI drivers had multidomain subtype [n = 6 (67%)] than safe MCI drivers [n = 11 (25%)], odds ratio 6.2 (95% confidence interval, 1.4–29.6).

      Conclusion and Implications

      Among safe drivers, MCI and CN drivers exhibit similar on-road error profiles, suggesting driver restrictions based on MCI status alone are unwarranted. However, formal evaluation is recommended in such cases, as there is evidence drivers with multiple domains of cognitive impairment may require additional interventions to support safe driving.


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