Objectives: We describe the driving habits of adults aged 60 years and older who were interviewed in the context of a community survey focused on mental disturbances. Our goal was to identify clinical cues that might signal driving difficulty in older adults who might present to the primary care physician for health care.
Design: A population-based survey.
Setting: Continuing participants in a follow-up study of community-dwelling adults who were living in East Baltimore in 1981.
Participants: Subjects were 1920 continuing participants of the Baltimore sample of the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Program; 589 were aged 60 years and older and provided information on driving habits.
Measurements: Respondents were asked about their driving status: had they made adaptations to driving and had they experienced any adverse driving events in the 2 years before the interview. Driving behaviors were assessed in relation to chronic disease, sensory impairment, functional status, and mental status.
Results: Former drivers were more likely to be older, female, and nonwhite. Diabetes, vision impairment, functional impairment, and making an error on the copy design task of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) were associated with no longer driving. Women were more likely to report having made adaptations to driving, as were persons with heart disease, arthritis, vision impairment, and those who made an error on the copy design task of the MMSE. Heart disease and hearing impairment were associated with report of an adverse driving event. In multivariate models that included terms for potentially influential characteristics such as age, gender, and miles driven, only the copy design task was associated with driving status, and only heart disease was associated with driving adaptation and adverse driving events.
Conclusion: Simple tests that tap visuospatial ability, such as the copy design task of the MMSE, may warrant additional study for use in driving assessment of older adults in primary care. The results underscore the importance of making an inquiry about driving as a separate and independent component of functional assessment.