Automobile driving is a crucial aspect of everyday life, yet vehicular crashes pose a serious public health problem. Parkinson's disease (PD) affects about one million Americans, and drivers with PD are at special risk for driving cessation or crashes due to progressive impairments of motor function, cognition, and vision. In our ongoing study on predicting driver safety in PD (R01 NS044930, PI:Uc), we are finding that drivers with PD perform worse than elderly drivers without neurological disease in driving tasks conducted on-road in an instrumented vehicle (IV) and on experimental driving scenarios presented on a high-fidelity driving simulator. Even drivers with early PD of mild severity have impairments on cognitive and visual functions, and show particular problems with multitasking while driving, performing complex driving maneuvers, and are at increased risk of collisions. Cognitive impairment and reduced visual perception contribute to poor driving performance and safety errors more than the typical motor dysfunction of PD. Based on our own and other researchers'empirical findings on the types and circumstances of common safety errors, as well as on the underlying causes and mechanisms of driving problems in PD, we have devised a new intervention for at-risk drivers with PD. The intervention consists of a systematic review of the subject's own road drive in the IV using verbal, video, and written feedback, followed by simulator training sessions for improving visual attention, performing complex maneuvers, multitasking during driving, hazard perception, and collision avoidance. The conceptual basis of our intervention is improving procedural memory and error awareness through feedback and practice in the simulator, with the expectation that this improvement would transfer to driving on the road. This is a pilot study proposal to further develop and refine our intervention, and test its short term efficacy to see if this intervention merits further testing in a Phase III trial. Development of effective rehabilitation programs for impaired drivers with PD will reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes and help protect and preserve the mobility and quality of life of these patients. Furthermore, this driving rehabilitation program can be adapted for use in other neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and traumatic brain injury, conditions seen in both older and younger veterans.
Parkinson's disease (PD) affects about 1 million Americans, including many aging veterans, and impairs cognitive, visual, and motor functions that are essential to safe automobile driving. Our long term goal is to develop a driving rehabilitation program for drivers with PD using training on a driving simulator and feedback from a videotaped road test. The goal of this pilot study proposal is to further develop this intervention and test its short term efficacy to see if it merits further testing in a larger randomized and controlled clinical trial. Developing effective rehabilitation programs for unsafe drivers with PD will reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes and help protect and preserve the mobility and independence of PD patients. Furthermore, this driving rehabilitation program can be adapted for use in other neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and traumatic brain injury, conditions seen in both older and younger veterans.