Safe Driving and Executive Functions in Healthy Middle-Aged Drivers

Publisher's full text
Umberto León-Domínguez
Elena Barrio-Álvarez
Juan Manuel Barroso y Martín
José León-Carrión

The introduction of the point system driver’s license in several European countries could offer a valid framework for evaluating driving skills. This is the first study to use this framework to assess the functional integrity of executive functions in middle-aged drivers with full points, partial points or no points on their driver’s license (N = 270). The purpose of this study is to find differences in executive functions that could be determinants in safe driving. Cognitive tests were used to assess attention processes, processing speed, planning, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. Analyses for covariance (ANCOVAS) were used for group comparisons while adjusting for education level. The Bonferroni method was used for correcting for multiple comparisons. Overall, drivers with the full points on their license showed better scores than the other two groups. In particular, significant differences were found in reaction times on Simple and Conditioned Attention tasks (both p-values < 0.001) and in number of type-III errors on the Tower of Hanoi task (p = 0.026). Differences in reaction time on attention tasks could serve as neuropsychological markers for safe driving. Further analysis should be conducted in order to determine the behavioral impact of impaired executive functioning on driving ability.

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