Distracted Driving and Risk of Crash or Near-crash Involvement among Older Drivers

School of Public Health

A group of UAB School of Public Health researchers including Drs. Emily Levitan, Marguerite (Ryan) Irving, and Gerald McGwin from the department of epidemiology worked with a team to examine the association between secondary task involvement and risk of crash and near-crash involvement among older drivers using naturalistic driving data.

Data from drivers aged ≥70 years in the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) Naturalistic Driving Study database was utilized. The personal vehicle of study participants was equipped with four video cameras enabling recording of the driver and the road environment. Secondary task involvement during a crash or near-crash event was compared to periods of non-crash involvement in a case-crossover study design. Conditional logistic regression was used to generate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).

The researchers found that overall, engaging in any secondary task was not associated with crash (OR=0.94, 95% CI 0.68-1.29) or near-crash (OR=1.08, 95% CI 0.79-1.50) risk. The risk of a major crash event with cell phone use was 3.79 times higher than the risk with no cell phone use (95% CI 1.00-14.37). Other glances into the interior of the vehicle were associated with an increased risk of near-crash involvement (OR=2.55, 95% CI 1.24-5.26). Other distractions external to the vehicle were associated with a decreased risk of crash involvement (OR=0.53, 95% CI 0.30-0.94). Interacting with a passenger and talking/singing were not associated with crash or near-crash risk.

They concluded that older drivers should avoid any cell phone use and minimize non-driving related eye glances towards the interior of the vehicle while driving. Certain types of events external to the vehicle are associated with a reduced crash risk among older drivers.

Full article.