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Driving Errors More Frequent in Parkinson Patients

Likelihood of errors more than twofold higher when distracted

TUESDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with Parkinson disease make more safety errors while driving and are more than twice as likely to make errors while distracted, researchers report in the Nov. 28 issue of Neurology.

Ergun Y. Uc, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, assessed driving performance in 71 licensed, currently active drivers with mild-to-moderate Parkinson disease. They were compared to 147 elderly controls without neurologic disease. Performance was assessed on a four-lane interstate highway at baseline and during a task designed to distract them.

Drivers with Parkinson disease made more errors both at baseline and while distracted. When distracted, they drove more slowly and at more variable speeds. Distraction had a similar average effect on driving performance in both groups, but significantly more drivers with Parkinson disease made safety errors (28.2 versus 15.8 percent) and the adjusted odds of making errors was significantly higher (odds ratio, 2.62). Cognition, motor function and sleepiness predicted driving performance while distracted, according to the study.

"The quantitative effect of an auditory-verbal distracter task on driving performance was not significantly different between Parkinson disease and control groups," Uc and colleagues conclude. "However, a significantly larger subset of drivers with Parkinson disease had worsening of their driving safety errors during distraction."

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