What is the scientific evidence that links performance on the Clock-Drawing Test and driving safety in older drivers?

by Peter on February 17, 2017

There is scientific evidence that not being able to perform a seemingly quick and simple task, such as drawing a clock, is linked to one’s ability to drive a car. Drawing a clock is actually considered to be a brain task that requires a higher level of brain function. The Clock-Drawing Test can indicate deficits related to your visual perception. As well, the Clock-Drawing Test can identify problems with short term memory and planning. There are a number of valid scoring methods for the Clock-Drawing Test that include the order, spacing and placement of the numbers and clock hands. The person being assessed is usually asked to draw a certain time on the clock, which is scored in terms of accuracy.

The Clock-Drawing Test was not developed for the specific purpose of evaluating driving in seniors. However, the research evidence evaluating the Clock-Drawing Test for assessing driving ability has been shown to be of moderate to strong quality. The research shows that the Clock-Drawing Test is a quick and easy way to identify drivers who may be experiencing cognitive changes . However, performance on the clock drawing test alone is not sufficient to revoke a person’s license. Researchers have suggested that this test, alongside other screening mechanisms, be used as part of a first step when assessing fitness to drive in older adults. In fact, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has recently instituted a version of the Clock-Drawing Test as part of its Senior Driver Renewal Program that targets drivers aged 80 and older.

Concerns with public safety when it comes to screening older drivers must be balanced with costs to their mobility and health

Driving enables seniors to remain connected to their communities, maintain social ties, and access needed services, particularly in rural areas lacking public transit (2). Loss of licensure in older adulthood, whether voluntary or otherwise, has negative consequences, including depression, reduced out-of-home activity levels, social isolation, loneliness and a higher risk of placement in long term care . Any changes in licensing policies and procedures that affect older drivers (due to concerns with public safety) need to consider all the consequences. Taking away a senior’s license because of potential risk, must be balanced with potential negative consequences to the mobility and health of older adults.   Courtesy of CIEPC 0 Pulse Jan issue


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