Objective: No research has examined whether individuals recovering from a recent mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) are safe to drive, despite cognitive impairment being a common consequence soon after MTBI. This study examined the acute effect of MTBI on drivers' hazard perception, which is defined as drivers' ability to search the road ahead to rapidly identify potentially dangerous traffic situations. Poorer hazard perception has been associated with higher crash rates in a number of studies.
Method: Forty-two patients with MTBI and 43 patients with minor orthopedic injuries were recruited from the emergency department of a large metropolitan hospital within 24 hours of injury. Participants completed a computerized hazard perception test, in which they watched videos of genuine traffic scenes filmed from the driver's point of view. They were required to use the computer mouse to click on potential traffic hazards as early as possible.
Results: Participants with MTBI were significantly slower to respond to traffic hazards than participants with minor orthopedic injuries (p = .03, d = .48).
Conclusions: This study provides the first indication that within the acute stage postinjury, MTBI is associated with impairment in a crash-related component of driving. This suggests that patients with MTBI should be advised to refrain from driving for at least the first 24 hours' postinjury.