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What you get may be what you don't see.

Older driven with a restricted useful field of view (UFOV) are three to four times more likely to have automobile accidents. They are also 15 times more likely to have accidents in intersections than those without this problem, according to a study published in a recent issue of Psychology and Aging.

The UFOV is the visual space within which an individual can be rapidly alerted to visual stimuli-- such as an oncoming vehicle from the right or left. The study implies that the UFOV is a reliable predictor of automobile accidents among older drivers.

"Approximately 50 percent of our subjects had good visual function, but failed the UFOV test," said Dr. Karlene Ball of Western Kentucky University, who designed a new method to evaluate the UFOV in the study. "Good visual status alone is not sufficient for a normal field of view."

The UFOV was measured by a Visual Attention Analyzer, a computerized instrument with a large touch-screen color monitor. The screening test provides a reliable estimate of UFOV size by measuring one's ability to handle the complexity of what one sees (or doesn't see) while driving.

The test also measures how one reacts accordingly--for example, how one picks out an important driver warning sign in the midst of a cluttered group of signs. The test also lakes into account other visual distractions that characterize many of our city streets.

The UFOV screening test accurately identified risk and non-risk older drivers in nearly 85 percent of cases. Such identification occurs in only about 50 percent of cases in visual tests currently used to test drivers.

The ability to predict accurately automobile accidents among the elderly (and, eventually, to reduce accident frequency in the elderly) could have dramatic social and financial implications. Dr. Ball noted that some participants who failed the UFOV test in the study had no record of reported accidents. This reflects the fact that many older drivers compensate for increasing visual problems by modifying their driving habits--such as by driving less, and by avoiding heavy traffic, night driving, and other complex situations.
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Title Annotation:restricted useful field of view
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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