Nic Ward, Former U of M Researcher, Mechanical Engineering
Since vision is a critical sense for safe driving, vision defects may create a risk factor for traffic safety. Albinism is a clinical condition associated with nystagmus (involuntary rhythmic eye movement), which can disrupt visual sampling of the driving environment, interfere with driving behavior, and affect traffic safety. For example, adequate visual sampling is critical at intersections to identify a safe gap and safely cross the intersection. Despite these assumptions about the potential effects of clinical impairment of the visual system, there has been no research on the effect of nystagmus related to albinism in the driving context. The project represents a pilot study to explore preliminary differences in driving behavior between clinical and non-clinical driving populations. The expectation was that data from this study may support future research proposals with sources of clinical research funding. This study adapted the existing experimental protocol and driving scenario from the IDS project (intersection scenario) and rural project (general driving safety scenarios). A sample of clinical and non-clinical drivers (matched for age and driving experience) drove the simulated route twice: once in low fog and once in high fog density conditions (counter-balanced). During the route, the sample of drivers experienced different driving scenarios and road signs. These scenarios assessed the driver's awareness in the driving environment that were important for safety.