Background/objective: Neurodegenerative disorders impact fitness to drive of older drivers, but on-road driving studies investigating patients with different neurodegenerative disorders are scarce. A variety of driving errors have been reported in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), but it is unclear which types of driving errors occur most frequently. Moreover, patients with other neurodegenerative disorders than AD typically present with different symptoms and impairments, therefore different driving errors may be expected.
Methods: Patients with AD (n = 80), patients with other neurodegenerative disorders with cognitive decline (i.e., vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies/Parkinson's disease, n = 59), and healthy older drivers (n = 45) participated in a fitness-to-drive assessment study including on-road driving.
Results: Patients with AD performed significantly worse than healthy older drivers on operational, tactical, visual, and global aspects of on-road driving. In patients with AD, on-road measures were significantly associated with 'off-road' measures. Patients with neurodegenerative disorders other than AD showed large overlap in the types of driving errors. Several driving errors were identified that appear to be characteristic for patients with particular neurodegenerative disorders.
Conclusion: Patients from each group of neurodegenerative disorders commonly display tactical driving errors regarding lane positioning, slow driving, observation of the blind spot, and scanning behavior. Several other tactical and operational driving errors, including not communicating with cyclists and unsteady steering, were more frequently observed in patients with non-AD neurodegenerative disorders. These findings have implications for on-road and 'off-road' fitness-to-drive assessments for patients with neurodegenerative disorders with cognitive decline.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; automobile driving; cognitive decline; dementia with Lewy bodies; frontotemporal dementia; neurodegenerative diseases; vascular dementia.