Concussions are all too common, often resulting from bumps, jolts, blows to the head, or vigorous shaking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that concussions result in about three-million hospital emergency room visits annually. Concussions have serious short- and long-term effects—and they can interfere with driving abilities. Not surprisingly, drivers often underestimate their impairment and rush to get behind the wheel.
Concussions Are Traumatic Brain Injuries
Medical professionals refer to concussions as a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Symptoms may include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Lack of coordination
- Memory loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
- Excessive fatigue
There are no specific cures for TBI, other than rest and restricting activities. The brain needs recovery time away from electronics, television, smartphones, sports, videogames, driving, and other stimulation. Unfortunately, we may find curtailing those daily activities in our fast-paced, always on-the-go lives difficult.
Driving Post-Concussion is Impairment
We know the dangers of impaired drivers. Drunk or drugged drivers are lethal weapons. A post-concussion driver is similarly impaired, and may present just as great a danger. According to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), concussions cause temporary mental and physical impairments, including:
- Slower reaction times
- Trouble focusing
- Poor physical coordination
- Poor judgment
One 2010 study recommended that drivers wait at least 24 hours before driving after TBI. That’s actually inadequate. New research suggests that the debilitating effects of concussion last far longer.
A study in the Journal of Neurotrauma is a real warning bell. Researchers found that concussions have long-term, pervasive effects on driving abilities—even without symptoms. Test subjects used simulators, and the results are statistically significant: Their poor, erratic vehicle control (or lack of control) was similar to driving under the influence.
Medical professionals note that although protocols have established when a concussed athlete may return to play sports, no such guidance or restrictions exist for driving after a concussion.
Teen Drivers May Confront Particular Risks
Researchers and medical professionals note that concussed teen drivers may face especially serious risks. Teenagers are heavily involved in sports and other physical activities and are new, inexperienced drivers. Two concussion after-effects are especially risky for teen drivers:
- Bright or flashing lights can trigger symptoms. If that’s the case, a concussed teen shouldn’t drive at nighttime. Oncoming traffic can trigger symptoms (such as a headache) that could interfere with safe driving.
- Sudden movements (like changing positions or head turning) can trigger symptoms. Our bodies instinctively avoid these movements and compensate to avoid symptoms (pain or discomfort). In that case, drivers can’t properly scan the road ahead for hazards.
Did a Concussed Driver Injure You in an Accident? Call an Experienced Richmond, Virginia, Personal Injury Attorney Today for Help
If you were hurt in an accident, don’t delay. Virginia law may entitle you to compensation for your injuries.
Trust the experienced, caring professionals at Emroch & Kilduff. Our legal team will make you our priority. We will answer your questions, evaluate your circumstances, discuss your options, and put your mind at ease. Call us at (804) 358-1568 or contact us online.