We investigated the extent to which simulated cataracts slow a driver’s ability to anticipate potential traffic hazards, a skill that has been found to correlate with crash risk. In previous studies, we found a significant correlation between contrast sensitivity and hazard perception in a sample of older drivers. The present study allowed us to determine the causal direction of this relationship. This is important as it provides a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the higher crash risk of drivers with cataracts.Methods.
One hundred eighty-six drivers with normal vision completed a validated video-based hazard perception driving test, designed to measure hazard anticipation response times in dynamic scenes. They also completed a change detection task based on traffic hazards, which was designed to measure object detection times in static scenes. Participants undertook the tasks wearing either mild or moderate cataract simulation goggles, or wearing goggle frames without lenses.Results.
Participants wearing moderate simulated cataract goggles were slower than the control group in both the hazard perception test, t(98.50) = −3.71, p < 0.001, and the hazard change detection task, t(124) = −13.86, p < 0.001. Participants with the mild simulated cataract goggles were slower than the control group in the hazard change detection task, t(114) = −4.04, p < 0.001, but not the hazard perception test, t(114) = −1.33, p = 0.19.Conclusions.
Moderate levels of simulated cataract slowed drivers’ ability to detect and anticipate traffic hazards enough to warrant road safety concerns, despite the fact that the vision of participants wearing the cataract goggles still complied with the minimum legal standard required for driving.