Impaired Visual Search in Drivers with Parkinson's Disease
OBJECTIVE: To assess the ability for visual search and recognition of roadside targets and safety errors during a landmark and traffic sign identification task in drivers with Parkinson's disease (PD).
METHODS: Seventy-nine drivers with PD and 151 neurologically normal older adults underwent a battery of visual, cognitive, and motor tests. The drivers were asked to report sightings of specific landmarks and traffic signs along a four-lane commercial strip during an experimental drive in an instrumented vehicle.
RESULTS: The drivers with PD identified significantly fewer landmarks and traffic signs, and they committed more at-fault safety errors during the task than control subjects, even after adjusting for baseline errors. Within the PD group, the most important predictors of landmark and traffic sign identification rate were performances on Useful Field of View (visual speed of processing and attention) and Complex Figure Test-Copy (visuospatial abilities). Trail Making Test (B-A), a measure of cognitive flexibility independent of motor function, was the only independent predictor of at-fault safety errors in drivers with PD.
INTERPRETATION: The cognitive and visual deficits associated with PD resulted in impaired visual search while driving, and the increased cognitive load during this task worsened their driving safety.