How everyday car driving can change as we age
Prior to a dementia diagnosis, people are often concerned about the possibility of giving up driving, and the loss of independence this entails. However, a better understanding of which pre-diagnosis symptoms predict driving ability will enable people to drive safer for longer.
We use a combination of established questionnaires and psychology tasks, combined with innovative new assessments, to create driver-specific profiles.
Our research question is: which profiles predict different driving styles.
Project Aims / objectives
- establishing thinking and driving profiles in older drivers.
- investigate which environmental factors and dementia-related symptoms can lead to unsafe driving.
- establish a driving safety calculator based on individuals’ thinking and driving profiles.
The study will comprise two phases: a UK-wide online study collecting self-reports of driving, followed by a smaller in-person study collecting in-car sensor data.
The online phase is active, and has recruited over 1,000 participants to date.
- The study is completed online, via our website (https://app.mantal.co.uk/decision).
- We will ask you to complete some questionnaires about your background, general health, and driving experience.
- We will also ask you to complete some thinking tasks that assess your memory, attention, and navigation ability.
- These questionnaires and tasks should take no more than 90 minutes to complete.
The in-person phase is currently on-hold due to COVID restrictions.
Dr. Morris (Co-I) sits on the Secretary of State for Transport’s Honorary Medical Advisory Panel on Driving and Psychiatric Disorders, and so will feed the study findings into the panel to help medical professionals deal with driving licence issues in older adults.
For NHS staff, a diagnosis of dementia requires them to provide medical information to the DVLA, who then make a decision as to the patient’s fitness to drive. This is time-consuming for NHS staff, and is difficult for patients who may feel that their freedoms have been compromised.
We hope that our findings will provide NHS staff with an important set of tools with which to collect relevant information in a time-efficient manner. Patients will also be reassured that their road safety is being assessed fairly.
Papers/resources associated with this study
- Study website: https://app.mantal.co.uk/decision
- Blog written by Prof. Hornberger about the importance of spatial awareness in dementia: https://www.raceagainstdementia.com/2021/01/guest-blog-dr-michael-hornberger-spatial-disorientation-in-alzheimers-disease-what-are-the-implications-for-car-driving/
- analyse the UK-wide data to investigate how cognitive profiles predict driving styles.
- launch the in-person phase of the study. This second phase will combine more detailed cognitive assessments, in-car sensor data, and genetic samples, to calculate individual driver risk of accident.
The online project phase launched in February 2021. We are currently collecting data, awaiting sufficient participant numbers to appropriately power statistical analyses.
We are looking for current drivers aged at least 65 to complete our online questionnaires and tasks. If you would like to learn more about participating in the DECISION Study, please visit the project website to check eligibility and find out more.
Professor Michael Hornberger, University of East Anglia : M.Hornberger@uea.ac.uk
Researchers and institutions
Dr. Mary Fisher-Morris, Private chartered psychologist (Co-I)
Dr. Stephen Jeffs, University of East Anglia (Researcher)