PURPOSE: The mechanisms underlying the elevated crash rates of older drivers with glaucoma are poorly understood. A key driving skill is timely detection of hazards; however, the hazard detection ability of drivers with glaucoma has been largely unexplored. This study assessed the eye movement patterns and visual predictors of performance on a laboratory-based hazard detection task in older drivers with glaucoma.
METHODS: Participants included 30 older drivers with glaucoma (71±7 years; average better-eye mean deviation (MD) = -3.1±3.2 dB; average worse-eye MD = -11.9±6.2 dB) and 25 age-matched controls (72±7 years). Visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, visual fields, useful field of view (UFoV; processing speeds), and motion sensitivity were assessed. Participants completed a computerised Hazard Perception Test (HPT) while their eye movements were recorded using a desk-mounted Tobii TX300 eye-tracking system. The HPT comprises a series of real-world traffic videos recorded from the driver's perspective; participants responded to road hazards appearing in the videos, and hazard response times were determined.
RESULTS: Participants with glaucoma exhibited an average of 0.42 seconds delay in hazard response time (p = 0.001), smaller saccades (p = 0.010), and delayed first fixation on hazards (p<0.001) compared to controls. Importantly, larger saccades were associated with faster hazard responses in the glaucoma group (p = 0.004), but not in the control group (p = 0.19). Across both groups, significant visual predictors of hazard response times included motion sensitivity, UFoV, and worse-eye MD (p<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Older drivers with glaucoma had delayed hazard response times compared to controls, with associated changes in eye movement patterns. The association between larger saccades and faster hazard response time in the glaucoma group may represent a compensatory behaviour to facilitate improved performance.