How do Brain Injuries Impact Driving Skills?
When an individual suffers any form of brain injury, it has the potential to leave chronic, lasting side effects on the patient and their family for the rest of their life. These side effects may make it difficult for the individual to drive safely, placing themselves and others at risk if they get behind the wheel of a car. Because these injuries can range widely in their severity, it can be difficult to decide who is able to drive following a cerebral event.What are Some of the Long-Term Effects of Brain Injuries?
When people experience a traumatic brain injury, there is a wide variety of symptoms that they might experience. It is these symptoms combined with imaging (such as an MRI) that will help to diagnose a brain injury. The type of brain injury will dictate the treatment; however, there are a number of long-term effects of these brain injuries that can seriously impact the patient and their loved ones for years to come. Among these long-term effects are:
- Vision Impairment: Images are received by the eyes and project backward onto the brain. The images are received and interpreted in the brain for the person to process. If the brain has been damaged, someone could lose vision in some or all of their visual field. Some people lose vision in one eye while others lose either the peripheral or central fields of their eyes. Some people could lose their vision entirely.
- Memory Impairment: A patient could also suffer from memory loss. There are many different types of memories, including short and long-term memory loss. Some people may also lose their prior memories while other patients could lose the ability to form new memories.
- Chronic Pain: The brain is the clearinghouse for all of the neurological signals of the body. This includes the pain receptors which transmit their signals to the brain for interpretation. It is possible for a patient to suffer from chronic, debilitating pain that could impact them for the rest of their lives.
- Cognitive Impairment: Patients can develop a wide range of cognitive impairments after a serious brain injury. For example, patients could lose the ability to converse effectively with other people, coordinate their motor skills, or exercise proper judgment. A traumatic brain injury could seriously impact their relationships with their friends and family for the long-term.
A team of medical professionals conducted an extensive search of the existing literature surrounding auto accidents and brain injuries. The researchers found over thirty different articles that examined the neurological damage and the impact it has on driving ability. After carefully looking through the articles, they found that no set methodology exists for examining the cognitive function and driving ability. This is a problem because people who have lost cognitive function may not be able to drive effectively.
The researchers assumed that these tests should be conducted to examine their ability to maintain attention on the road, ability to process visual and spatial clues, and their ability to perform executive functions. The article ends by discussing the importance of conducting an assessment of driving skills on the road. This is vital because it provides an objective way of assessing readiness to drive following a serious injury. While this may be a challenge to implement, putting a test in place will help the patient and other people on the road remain in safe hands.The Implications for the Future
When someone is thinking about driving following a traumatic brain injury, it is important to carefully consider their abilities for their own safety and the safety of others. More research is needed on what types of brain injuries predispose people to drive unsafely and which types do not. For example, someone who has sustained significant damage to the cognitive areas of their brain may not be able to process signals from the outside quick enough to take evasive action on the road. Other people may have lost a significant amount of their motor function and have trouble pressing the pedals and turning the wheel.
There are also people who might have changes in their judgment that could cause them to make poor decisions on the road. When someone has suffered serious brain damage, it is important to take some time to assess their driving abilities; however, the wide range of brain injuries can make this assessment difficult.
The video below features a young man with traumatic brain injury who is learning how to drive again.Sacramento Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer
Photo by Riccardo Bresciani from Pexels
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Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 2.19.20]