A new study suggests that the effects of a concussion do not clear as quickly as previously thought. This has serious ramifications for drivers and safety on our highways and byways. Driving ability is compromised for a longer period than previously understood. When tested on a driving simulator many subjects drive erratically. In some cases, these subjects
appeared very similar to people driving under the influence of alcohol.
A recent study by University of Georgia researchers found that despite feeling that the effects of a concussion are gone, driving is still impaired. Surprisingly, this is the first study of its kind to analyze the effects and the continuation of those effects on drivers. The findings are as compelling as the findings of other studies of the continuation of the effects of concussion on athletes.
Most people are aware of some of the studies that have been conducted previously in an effort to understand how concussion affects athletes, and for how long. Yet even the studies that have resulted in more stringent requirements for athletes to return to the playing field, they did not consider how the injury affected the effects on the athletes’ driving ability. It is not uncommon, in fact, for athletes to drive home immediately following the injury.
The research was based upon the behavior of 14 college-age subjects that were within a 48 hour window of no longer feeling the effects of the concussion. When tested on a driving simulator, the subjects had diminished vehicle control and the swerved within their lane. This indicates a higher risk of a vehicle accident occurring.
These findings are fortuitous. First, additional studies will be conducted in an effort to pinpoint when driving ability returns to normal. Second, further study should result in guidance for those recovering from concussion, their doctors, and emergency medical professionals, who typically advise concussion patients when it is safe to return to driving. Third, we can hope that these findings will convince others that it is not safe to drive shortly after a concussion. Included in the report on the study was a note that only 50 percent of people have any intention of restricting their driving for any period after suffering a concussion.
This research has implications for any concussion patient, regardless of the context of the injury. If you have sustained a concussion, please allow extra time before you get behind the wheel of a car. Your driving will be compromised well beyond the time when you believe all of the effects of the concussion have cleared. If you have been injured due to an impaired driver, we are here to help.