Mobility in old Age

Principle investigators:
Melanie Karthaus, Stephan Getzmann, Edmund Wascher

Julian Reiser

BASt (FE 82.0649/2016): DoBoLSiS

Prof. Dr. Georg Rudinger (uz bonn)

For the majority of older adults, driving a car is of essential importance for mobility and participation in social life. However, aging significantly increases the risk of severe traffic accidence, in particular in critical driving situations. On the other hand, very young and very old drivers are known to have specific problems compared to middle-aged drivers, causing specific risks and types of accidents. Assuming a higher proportion of these age groups, the risk of age-specific traffic accidents is expected to even increase in the future.

We investigate the sources of decreasing roadworthiness and the interrelations of driving performance, aging, and age-related changes in sensory, cognitive, and motor functions, analysing driving behaviour of younger and older adults both in real traffic and in driving simulator environments. In studies of monotony and fatigue on driving performance, we investigate effects of cognitive changes in elderly on motoring and participating in (road) traffic, using behavioural and electrophysiological measures. In addition, we test effects of distracting auditory and visual stimuli (e.g., given by the operation of navigation systems) on driving performances in young, middle-aged, and old drivers.

The completed DFG project ‘Car driving under distraction: effects on brain activity and driving performance in young, middle-aged and older drivers’ investigated age-specific distraction effects and compensation mechanisms as well as possible sources of differences between high and low performing drivers by analysis of driving performance and EEG measures. Our results will be utilized to improve traffic-related designs and to develop age-specific training methods for drivers of different ages.

In the BASt-funded longitudinal study DoBoLSiS (Dortmund Bonner Längsschnittstudie zur Sicherheit von Senioren im Straßenverkehr) the development of traffic safety-related personal characteristics of seniors are investigated an over period of five years. The aim is to sensitize older drivers for age-related deficits and risks and to derive predictors for future driving ability of seniors.


  • Karthaus M, Getzmann S, Wascher E, Graas F, Rudinger G: Die Entwicklung verkehrssicherheitsrelevanter Personenmerkmale im höheren Lebensalter und ihre Einflussfaktoren. Erste Querschnittsanalysen aus der Dortmunder-Bonner-Längsschnittstudie (DoBoLSiS). Bergisch Gladbach: Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen, 2023 (Berichte der Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen: Mensch und Sicherheit, Heft M 336)
  • Wascher, E., Emad, A., Karthaus, M., Getzmann, S., Arnau, S. & Reiser, J. (2023). Tracking drivers’ minds: Continuous evaluation of mental load and cognitive processing in a realistic driving simulator scenario by means of the EEG. Heliyon, 9, e17904.
  • Karthaus, M., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2021). Distraction in the driving simulator: An ERP study with young, middle-aged, old and oldest drivers. Safety, 7, 36.
  • Falkenstein, M., Karthaus, M. & Brüne-Cohrs, U. (2020). Age-related diseases and driving safety. Geriatrics 5, 80.
  • Karthaus, M., Wascher, E., Falkenstein, M. & Getzmann, S. (2020). The ability of young, middle-aged and older drivers to inhibit visual and auditory distraction in a driving simulator task. Transportation Research Part F: Psychology and Behaviour, 68, 272-284.
  • Getzmann, S., Arnau, S., Karthaus, M., Reiser, J.E. & Wascher, E. (2018). Age-related differences in pro-active driving behaviour revealed by EEG measures. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12, 321.
  • Karthaus, M., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2018). Effects of visual and acoustic distraction on driving behavior and EEG in young and older car drivers: A driving simulation study. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 10, 420.
  • Karthaus, M., Wascher, E. & Getzmann, S. (2018). Proactive vs. reactive car driving: EEG evidence for different driving strategies of older drivers. PLoS ONE, 13: e0191500.
  • Falkenstein, M. & Karthaus, M. (2017). Fahreignung im höheren Lebensalter: Sensibilisieren – Erfassen – Fördern. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.