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Health Conditions and its Impact on Driving Performance: The key Importance of Awareness
The recent evidence has demonstrated that there are many medical conditions, or a combination of them, that may affect the ability to perform different tasks that may involve complexity and imply the need of (e.g.) concentration and physical/mental fitness. This is the case of operating motor vehicles. With no doubt, driving performance is affected by potential diseases or signs of discomfort among drivers. Several studies have shown that these conditions (adverse health indicators) increase the risk for traffic accidents in a significant proportion.
By Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Sergio A. Useche & Andrea Serge
Apr. 28, 2017

Percentage distribution of other physical alterations that drivers considered that may impair driving.

Percentage distribution of other physical alterations that drivers considered that may impair driving.

The recent evidence has demonstrated that there are many medical conditions, or a combination of them, that may affect the ability to perform different tasks that may involve complexity and imply the need of (e.g.) concentration and physical/mental fitness. This is the case of operating motor vehicles. With no doubt, driving performance is affected by potential diseases or signs of discomfort among drivers. Several studies have shown that these conditions (adverse health indicators) increase the risk for traffic accidents in a significant proportion.

A recent study developed by INTRAS - University Research Institute on Traffic and Road Safety (University of Valencia) has shown that drivers consider that the influence of alcohol, drugs, drowsiness and medicine consumption may impair their driving, but do not take into account health conditions that may be common among the population, such as diabetes, allergies, joint pains, myopia, heart or post-heart-attack problems, as well as headaches and migraines. For obtaining this result, the research design used a total sample of 1200 Spanish drivers, seeking to develop a characterization of the road risk and habits of drivers along all this country. The purpose of this study was to describe the perception of drivers about the effect of certain health conditions on driving performance. In other words, to understand which conditions are perceived as associated with less driving performance, and which are not perceived as potential risk factors on driving safety.

Other relevant results of this study remark that there are significant statistical differences in the perception of the impact of drowsiness on traffic crashes, depending on the age group. Although all age groups considered that conditions such as drowsiness might impair driving seriously, people aged between 18-25 (young drivers), and/or with less driving experience, are whose most frequently minimize the perceived impact of some adverse health conditions over driving performance. Furthermore, it results clear that most of drivers perceive the implicit risk of driving when suffering adverse health circumstances. However, there is a lack of correspondence between the knowledge and the reported behaviors, fact that decreases the potential safety of this task, and increases (at the same time) the risk of suffering a traffic accident.

Andrea Serge, researcher at the University Research Institute on Traffic and Road Safety, and co-author of the study, affirms that it is important to remark the role of health conditions on driving performance, and it is suggestible to develop more effective mechanisms to inform drivers about the potential effects of illnesses on driving safety, and to promote the improving of behavioral regulation (i.e., decision making) of drivers on this regard.

Authors:

Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Sergio A. Useche & Andrea Serge.

DATS (Development and Advising in Traffic Safety) Research Group, INTRAS (University Research Institute on Traffic and Road Safety), University of Valencia. Valencia, Spain.

The original paper of this study has been just published in Public Health International.

Paper link:
http://article.sciencepublishinggroup.com/html/10.11648.j.phi.20170201.11.html

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