Cognitive impairment is a significant risk factor for hazardous driving among older drivers with Alzheimer’s dementia, but little is known about how the driving behavior of mildly symptomatic compares with those in the preclinical, asymptomatic phase of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This study utilized two in-car technologies to characterize driving behavior in symptomatic and preclinical AD. The goals of this pilot study were to (1) describe unsafe driving behaviors in individuals with symptomatic early AD using G-force triggered video capture and (2) compare the driving habits of these symptomatic AD drivers to two groups of cognitively normal drivers, those with and those without evidence of cerebral amyloidosis (CN/A+ and CN/A−) using a global positioning system (GPS) datalogger. Thirty-three drivers (aged 60+ years) were studied over 3 months. G-force triggered video events captured instances of near-misses/collisions, traffic violations, risky driver conduct, and driving fundamentals. GPS data were sampled every 30 s and all instances of speeding, hard braking, and sudden acceleration were recorded. For the early AD participants, video capture identified driving unbelted, late response, driving too fast for conditions, traffic violations, poor judgment, and not scanning intersections as the most frequently occurring safety errors. When evaluating driving using the GPS datalogger, hard breaking events occurred most frequently on a per trip basis across all three groups. The CN/A+ group had the lowest event rate across all three event types with lower instances of speeding. Slower psychomotor speed (Trail Making Part A) was associated with fewer speeding events, more hard acceleration events, and more overall events. GPS tracked instances of speeding were correlated with total number of video-captured near-collisions/collisions and driving fundamentals. Results demonstrate the utility of electronic monitoring to identify potentially unsafe driving events in symptomatic and preclinical AD. Results suggest that drivers with preclinical AD may compensate for early, subtle cognitive changes by driving more slowly and cautiously than healthy older drivers or those with cognitive impairment. Self-regulatory changes in driving behavior appear to occur in the preclinical phase of AD, but safety concerns may not arise until symptoms of cognitive impairment emerge and the ability to self-monitor declines.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- driving mobility
- preclinical Alzheimer’s disease