10 October 2012

Head-Injured Drivers Pose Safety Risk. Part 3

Posted by Jody under: Mental Health .

Based on Deb’s earlier research, many patients continue to have concentration and memory problems, impatience and irritability even one year after head injury, and are at a higher risk for developing seizures.

“This has immense implications for driving,” Deb says. “Slowness in the speed of information processing, which is common after head injury, could easily lead to a driving error and an accident. Irritability and impatience can lead to irresponsible driving and road rage.”

Problems in memory and concentration may be even more dangerous to driving than behavioral problems, according to Joukje van der Naalt, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at the University Hospital Groningen, The Netherlands.

“Often no formal advice is given regarding fitness to drive after head injury,” he says.

Although van der Naalt recommends formal neuropsychological testing before clearing head-injured patients to drive, even these tests fail to tap into some higher mental functions crucial for safe driving.

“A standardized system for both physical and mental assessment should be perfomed before driving after brain injury, as well as a practical driving test,” says Arne Mosberg, M.D., a head trauma expert in Sunnaas, Norway. In his study published November 2000, patients with traumatic brain injury had a significantly higher number of traffic accidents after injury than did patients with stroke.

In the United States, 15 states authorize physicians to report impaired drivers, and seven states require physicians to report them, but 35 states require drivers to report themselves.

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