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Accid Anal Prev. 2013 Nov;60:5-14. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2013.07.033. Epub 2013 Aug 14.

Assessment of driving-related performance in chronic whiplash using an advanced driving simulator.

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NHMRC Centre of Clinical Research Excellence - Spinal Pain, Injury and Health, Division of Physiotherapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Electronic address:


Driving is often nominated as problematic by individuals with chronic whiplash associated disorders (WAD), yet driving-related performance has not been evaluated objectively. The purpose of this study was to test driving-related performance in persons with chronic WAD against healthy controls of similar age, gender and driving experience to determine if driving-related performance in the WAD group was sufficiently impaired to recommend fitness to drive assessment. Driving-related performance was assessed using an advanced driving simulator during three driving scenarios; freeway, residential and a central business district (CBD). Total driving duration was approximately 15min. Five driving tasks which could cause a collision (critical events) were included in the scenarios. In addition, the effect of divided attention (identify red dots projected onto side or rear view mirrors) was assessed three times in each scenario. Driving performance was measured using the simulator performance index (SPI) which is calculated from 12 measures. z-Scores for all SPI measures were calculated for each WAD subject based on mean values of the control subjects. The z-scores were then averaged for the WAD group. A z-score of ≤-2 indicated a driving failing grade in the simulator. The number of collisions over the five critical events was compared between the WAD and control groups as was reaction time and missed response ratio in identifying the red dots. Seventeen WAD and 26 control subjects commenced the driving assessment. Demographic data were comparable between the groups. All subjects completed the freeway scenario but four withdrew during the residential and eight during the CBD scenario because of motion sickness. All scenarios were completed by 14 WAD and 17 control subjects. Mean z-scores for the SPI over the three scenarios was statistically lower in the WAD group (-0.3±0.3; P<0.05) but the score was not below the cut-off point for safe driving. There were no differences in the reaction time and missed response ratio in divided attention tasks between the groups (All P>0.05). Assessment of driving in an advanced driving simulator for approximately 15min revealed that driving-related performance in chronic WAD was not sufficiently impaired to recommend the need for fitness to drive assessment.


Attention; Automobile driving; Chronic pain; Computer simulation; Task performance; Whiplash injuries

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