If you’re in a car crash, even if your head didn’t strike a surface, a sudden or vigorous shaking back and forth upon impact can cause a concussion. That’s why it’s wise to have a thorough medical exam after a crash whether you think you suffered any serious injuries or not.
The symptoms of a concussion can stay with a person for days, weeks or even longer. They can include headaches, sensitivity to noise and light and difficulty concentrating.
Even after people are no longer experiencing symptoms, their ability to drive safely may be impacted. Many people who’ve been involved in accidents want to get behind the wheel again and overcome the anxiety they’re experiencing about it. However, it might not be a good idea.
Study found similarities to drunk driving
A study at the University of Georgia looked specifically at the impact of a concussion on driving on college-age people. Although it was a small study, with just 14 participants, the results were troubling.
The young people were tested using a driving simulator within two days after they reported that they no longer felt any concussion symptoms. Researchers found that the subjects often “drove” erratically. In fact, they compared it to the way someone would drive while intoxicated.
The study’s author reported that the subjects “had less vehicle control while they were doing the driving simulation, and they swerved more within the lane.” She noted, “This is a pretty large indicator of motor vehicle accident risk…at a time point when they are considered recovered.”
Waiting until the symptoms are gone may not be enough
Young people who suffer concussions while playing sports (as well as their doctors and coaches) are often focused on when they’re well enough to return to the field or court. However, it’s perhaps more important to consider when it’s safe for them to drive again. While there’s no definitive timeline, the study suggests that it may not be enough to wait until you’re no longer experiencing symptoms to get behind the wheel again.
If you or a loved one was injured in a crash, make sure that all injuries have been properly diagnosed before you reach a settlement with an insurance company and/or the at-fault driver. Concussions and other head injuries can be elusive, but they can have serious short- and long-term consequences.