Study: Even Without Symptoms, Driving Post-Concussion is Risky

Driving Skills Impaired Even When Concussion Symptoms are Gone

Driving after a concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury frequently caused by a blow to the head, is dangerous. Concussions can affect how a person thinks and acts, increasing the risk of an accident on the road. A recent study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma suggests that driving after a concussion presents risks, even when patients no longer experience symptoms of a concussion.

Parker Waichman LLP has decades of experience representing automobile accident victims. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a car accident lawsuit.

Researchers at the University of Georgia conducted the study using 14 college-age students who suffered a concussion. A driving simulator was used to test their driving abilities within 48-hours after they no longer felt symptoms of their concussion. These individuals were compared to 14 aged-matched control participants who did not experience a concussion.

The authors found that driving skills were still impaired in the participants who experienced the recent concussion, even though they felt that they had recovered. In some cases, their driving ability was comparable to a driver under the influence of alcohol.

“They had less vehicle control while they were doing the driving simulation, and they swerved more within the lane,” said study author Julianne Schmidt, according to a press release. “This is a pretty large indicator of motor vehicle accident risk, and this is at a time point when they are considered recovered,”

Most studies about concussions are focused on sports-related injuries in athletes, the authors note. Players who suffer a concussion must go through a series of tests to ensure that their brain has recovered before playing once again. The topic of driving after a concussion, however, has not received much attention. The issue has not even been raised among athletes.

“In athletics, we don’t restrict their driving before their symptoms resolve. Often, people will get a concussion and drive home from the event or practice that caused the concussion—there are no restrictions there,” said Schmidt, according to the release. “Whereas, we would never let them go out on the field or court; we’re very strict about that.”

The findings have implications beyond just athletes, the authors say. The study suggests that a concussion can still affect brain function even when the patient feels the injury has passed.

“The driving simulation shows they are performing very differently on the road compared to people who are not concussed, even after such symptoms resolve,” said Schmidt, according to the release. “We have very fine-tuned recommendations for when a concussed individual is ready to return to sport and the classroom, but we don’t even mention driving in our recommendations. And only 50 percent of people intend to restrict their driving at any point following a concussion—which means that by the time they are feeling better, they are almost certainly on the road.”

Concussion and Driving

A concussion can occur when there is impact on the head. This can cause headaches and impair brain function, including difficulty with concentration, memory, balance and coordination. While a blow to the head is the most common cause of concussions, Mayo Clinic notes that violent shaking of the head and upper body can also cause a concussion.

Most of the time, the effects of a concussion are temporary. Concussions occur frequently with contact sports such as football. However, other incidents, such as a car accident, can also lead to a concussion.

After a concussion, you may have a slower reaction time, difficulty concentration, impaired coordination, and poor judgment. As such, you should not drive if you have a concussion.

Some individuals may suffer a concussion without realizing it. Symptoms of a concussion are not always immediate. Common signs of a concussion include headache, memory loss, and confusion. Usually, the memory loss is related to the incident causing the concussion.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a concussion is a form of impairment. “Just like the brain needs to heal before returning to school and sports, the brain needs to heal before getting back to driving,” an article posted on the hospital website states.

Concussions and Car Accident Lawsuits

Parker Waichman notes that being in a motor vehicle accident can cause a concussion. Keep in mind that a concussion may not always be immediately apparent. If you were involved in a car accident and you believe you have a concussion or another type of injury, you should seek medical attention immediately and the police should be called to the scene.

Early medical treatment may help your condition and improve your road to recovery. In terms of personal injury litigation, seeing a doctor and having medical records of your concussion helps prove that you were injured in a car accident.

There are also several other tips you should follow, if possible after an accident. Take picture of the scene, including an injury, damage the vehicles and property damage. Document the license plate number, make, model and color of the other car involved. Additionally, obtain the contact and insurance information of the other driver.

If there were any eyewitnesses around when the accident occurred, it helps to have a statement from them. You can also check to see if there is security footage that caught the accident on video. For example, some businesses may have security cameras showing the outside street.

Immediately following a car accident, you may feel flustered or stressed. This is very understandable. However, it is important for you to remain as calm as possible and avoid any hostile interactions with the other driver. Do not apologize for the accident, as it could be used against you later. If you are not seriously hurt, you can check to make sure the other driver and passengers are not injured as well.

Legal Help for Car Accident Victims

Parker Waichman has decades of experience representing car accident and other accident victims. If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident, you may have valuable legal rights. Our personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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