Older adult driving performance assessed under simulated and on-road conditions

Matthew C. Costello, Peggy P. Barco, Kevin J. Manning, Kimberly E. O’Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Simulated driving offers a convenient test of driving ability for older drivers, although the viability of using simulated driving with this population is mixed. The relative weighting of the relevant perceptual, cognitive, and physical factors may vary between simulated and on-road driving. The current study was designed to assess this possibility. We conducted simulated and on-road driving tests of 61 older adults aged 66–92 years. To ensure that the driving performance was measured similarly between the two driving modalities, we employed the Record of Driving Errors (RODE) driving assessment system during both driving tests. Correlation and random weights analysis (RWA) results indicated only modest evidence of correspondence between the simulated and on-road driving performances. The primary factors operative in both simulated and on-road driving was Useful Field of View and a measure of basic cognition. Unique factors for simulated driving included a measure of physical mobility (Time-Up-and-Go) and spatial reasoning (Line), and for on-road driving included chronological age and sensorimotor processing (Trail-Making Task A). Chronological age was correlated primarily the on-road rather than simulated test, was greatly reduced with the inclusion of additional explanatory factors, and likely reflects driving efficiency rather than driving safety. We conclude that simulated driving in healthy older drivers can be beneficial for research purposes to assess cognitive and perceptual factors that underly driving effectiveness, although it cannot serve as a clear proxy for on-road driving.

Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Neuropsychology:Adult
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Aging
  • behavioral analysis
  • cognition
  • driving
  • elderly
  • perception
  • sensory-motor
  • simulated driving


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