If you see an oncoming car that suddenly drifts across the center line, alarm bells go off in your mind. You probably swerve toward the shoulder of the road to avoid a crash.
You may conclude that the driver who nearly hit you was either drunk or distracted in some way, but there is another possibility: The erratic driver may be recovering from a concussion.
Taking a different tack
Many people think of concussions in connection with sports. Most of the research we read focuses on the various ways concussions can affect athletes and their performance on the football field or basketball court. However, a new study looks at how a concussion can affect someone's driving performance.
Showing less control
The study undertaken by researchers at the University of Georgia revealed that the effects of a concussion may linger after the symptoms disappear. Using a driving simulator, college-age study participants who felt they had recovered from their concussion took to the road with surprising results. They swerved more and had less vehicle control than normal drivers. The researchers compared their performance in part to the erratic driving behavior that intoxicated motorists might exhibit.
There has been a change to the rules in both college and pro sports to provide more protection and recovery time for athletes who suffer concussions. To date, however, there are no restrictions on driving. In fact, many athletes diagnosed with a concussion drive themselves home after the episode during which they suffered the injury. Researchers find that only half of those who have had a concussion choose to restrict their driving.
The next step in the research linking concussions to driving ability will be to determine how long after such an injury the symptoms are truly gone and driving skills have indeed normalized. Until then, anyone who observes a motorist who is driving erratically is wise to steer clear to avoid a possible collision and serious injury. The erratic driver may not be intoxicated but merely recovering from a concussion.