The transition from driver to ex-driver is a challenging turning-point for older disabled adults that can influence not only mobility, but also social ties, the ability to work, one's sense of independence, and public safety. An increasing number of Americans will face this transition as the population ages. However, little is known about the psychological and social influences on driving transitions.

The purpose of this 5-year study is to better understand the ways older adults with vision problems adapt and make decisions about their driving. Specifically, we will identify the personal, social, and contextual factors that contribute to the decision to self-regulate or stop driving, as well as the reciprocal associations between well-being and changes in driving behavior. In addition, we draw on a model of health behavior change (Maes and Gebhardt, 2002) to examine how a person's goal structure can either facilitate or block a change in driving behavior and the impact of changes in driving or driving cessation on well-being.


A total of 380 older adult drivers (age 55+) will be recruited from a community-based vision rehabilitation agency and low-vision clinics. Three in-person interviews will be conducted (baseline, year 1, year 2), with two brief telephone interviews at 6 and 18 months from baseline. Three telephone interviews will also be conducted with a contact (family or friend chosen by the primary participant) at baseline, year 1, and year 2. Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations will be analyzed with Regression-, Individual Growth-, and Structural Equation Modeling techniques.


Recruitment and data collection are in progress. Baseline data collection is expected to end in October 2006, and all data collection will be completed in 2008. Follow-up interviews have begun for the earliest baseline participants. Preliminary analyses were conducted with 40 participants and findings summarized for an abstract submitted for the 2006 annual conference of the American Society on Aging show:

  • Older drivers faced with vision problems are generally reluctant to discuss driving-related issues with others

  • Only half talk with a family member, and only a quarter talk with a physician

  • However, the majority said that their doctors, spouses, or children would be most likely to influence their driving decisions

Insights gained from this study can be used to inform the growing number of community-based, governmental and private programs that focus on assisting older drivers in making timely decisions that will protect both public safety and the individual's mental health. Rehabilitation and mental health professionals who work with older drivers can also use this information to facilitate the transition from driver to ex-driver in late adulthood.


Horowitz, A., Boerner, K., & Reinhardt, J. P. (2002). Psychosocial aspects of driving transitions in elders with low vision. Gerontechnology, 1, 262-273.

Investigators: Amy Horowitz, DSW/PhD, Principal Investigator
Joann P. Reinhardt, PhD, Co-Investigator
Kathrin Boerner, PhD, Co-Investigator
Tenko Raykov, PhD, Statistical Consultant
Kent Higgins, PhD, Vision Scientist
Bruce Rosenthal, OD, Low Vision Specialist
Stan Maes, PhD, Consultant
Steven E. Mock, PhD, Project Director
Tina Calia, MS, Research Assistant
Elizabeth Courtney, BS, Administrative/Research Assistant
Kim Macek, BA, PhD, Candidate, Research Intern
Lauren Grunseid, Research Intern

Funded by: National Institute on Aging (1 RO1 AG020579)

Project Period: 5/01/04 - 4/30/09



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