This project aims to provide the medical community with evidence-based recommendations for managing post-concussion driving, specifically among adolescent and young adult drivers at increased risk for high-risk driving behaviors and with less driving experience.
An upwards of 3.8 million concussions occur annually in the United States, many of which occur in adolescents and young adults. Despite concerns over post-concussion driving safety, only 44% of concussed individuals reduce their driving and often only for 24-48 hours. Driving is a highly complicated activity requiring timely interactions of visual, motor, and cognitive skills to respond to a dynamic, constantly changing environment.
Concussed individuals are slower to identify hazards and initial data suggests they have poor vehicle control through the duration of concussion recovery. This is concerning for all concussions, but particularly among younger and less experienced drivers with an already increased tendency toward risk-taking behaviors. Driving restrictions must be appropriate and necessitated by the impairments from concussion, since excessive restriction inappropriately strips patients of their independence, mobility, and freedom. As a result, there is a critical need to determine when concussed individuals can safely return to driving and to identify key concussion assessment predictors to guide clinicians, parents, and students making return to driving decisions.
To address this critical need, clinician-researchers at the University of Georgia and the Shepherd Center are forming a unique clinical-academic partnership. The research project aims to:
- Assess driving performance in adolescent and young adult driving in both the acute and subacute phase after concussion
- Identify clinic assessments, used commonly in primary care and concussion clinics, which predict post-concussive driving performance
This research project leverages the unique strengths of UGA and the Shepherd Center including immediate access to students post injury at UGA and the high volume of students with subacute/protracted recovery from Atlanta area high schools and colleges presented to the Shepherd Center Complex Concussion Clinic. Assessments will include both simulated driving evaluations and a unique naturalistic driving assessment. This effort will characterize post concussive driving impairments and identify clinical assessments both informing the decision to restrict driving and informing safe returns to driving decisions.
Additionally, the research team will assemble an advisory council comprised of important stakeholders including clinicians, parents, students, and policymakers. This group will inform efforts to translate study results into the community including various clinical settings, schools, public policy,
public safety, and child safety advocacy groups. This group will also explore next steps including return-to-drive focused treatment, return-to-drive progression, and community education.
Overall, Drive Safe will have a broad and positive impact, improving the safety of both concussed adolescents and young adults, as well as the general population. The effort will guide health professionals, inform the future work of researchers, and substantiate the work of policymakers by providing evidenced-based recommendations for managing post-concussion driving.