The impact of spatial orientation changes on driving behavior in healthy aging

Sol Morrissey, Stephen Jeffs, Rachel Gillings, Mizanur Khondoker, Martyn Patel, Mary Fisher-Morris, Ed Manley, Michael Hornberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives: Global cognitive changes in older age affect driving behavior and road safety, but how spatial orientation differences affect driving behaviors is unknown on a population level, despite clear implications for driving policy and evaluation during aging. The present study aimed to establish how spatial navigation changes affect driving behavior and road safety within a large cohort of older adults.

Methods: Eight hundred and four participants (mean age: 71.05) were recruited for a prospective cohort study. Participants self-reported driving behavior followed by spatial orientation (allocentric and egocentric) testing and a broader online cognitive battery (visuomotor speed, processing speed, executive functioning, spatial working memory, episodic memory, visuospatial functioning).

Results: Spatial orientation performance significantly predicted driving difficulty and frequency. Experiencing more driving difficulty was associated with worse allocentric spatial orientation, processing speed, and source memory performance. Similarly, avoiding challenging driving situations was associated with worse spatial orientation and episodic memory. Allocentric spatial orientation was the only cognitive domain consistently affecting driving behavior in under 70 and over 70 age groups, a common age threshold for driving evaluation in older age.

Discussion: We established for the first time that worse spatial orientation performance predicted increased driving difficulty and avoidance of challenging situations within an older adult cohort. Deficits in spatial orientation emerge as a robust indicator of driving performance in older age, which should be considered in future aging driving assessments, as it has clear relevance for road safety within the aging population.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbergbad188
JournalJournal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date22 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Cognition
  • Online cognitive assessment
  • Public health
  • Road safety

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