Age-related changes in perception of movement in driving scenes

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Age-related changes in motion sensitivity have been found to relate to reductions in various indices of driving performance and safety. The aim of this study was to investigate the basis of this relationship in terms of determining which aspects of motion perception are most relevant to driving.


Participants included 61 regular drivers (age range 22–87 years). Visual performance was measured binocularly. Measures included visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and motion sensitivity assessed using four different approaches: (1) threshold minimum drift rate for a drifting Gabor patch, (2) Dmin from a random dot display, (3) threshold coherence from a random dot display, and (4) threshold drift rate for a second-order (contrast modulated) sinusoidal grating. Participants then completed the Hazard Perception Test (HPT) in which they were required to identify moving hazards in videos of real driving scenes, and also a Direction of Heading task (DOH) in which they identified deviations from normal lane keeping in brief videos of driving filmed from the interior of a vehicle.


In bivariate correlation analyses, all motion sensitivity measures significantly declined with age. Motion coherence thresholds, and minimum drift rate threshold for the first-order stimulus (Gabor patch) both significantly predicted HPT performance even after controlling for age, visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. Bootstrap mediation analysis showed that individual differences in DOH accuracy partly explained these relationships, where those individuals with poorer motion sensitivity on the coherence and Gabor tests showed decreased ability to perceive deviations in motion in the driving videos, which related in turn to their ability to detect the moving hazards.


The ability to detect subtle movements in the driving environment (as determined by the DOH task) may be an important contributor to effective hazard perception, and is associated with age, and an individuals' performance on tests of motion sensitivity. The locus of the processing deficits appears to lie in first-order, rather than second-order motion pathways.

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