Researchers at the University of Iowa Hospitals are trying to give doctors a better gauge on when a patient is no longer capable of driving. U-of-I neurology professor Matthew Rizzo is using a driving simulator to try and give doctors a set standard to make judgments on when an illness or injury has impaired a patient’s driving ability. He says they’re studying people with neurological disorders like Alzheimers Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke or head injury to see how the weaknesses in thinking and vision brought on by their medical problems impact certain driving tasks. Doctor Rizzo says up until now, it’s been a subjective judgment call made by doctors and patients. He says the family and patient often can’t say if there’s a driving problem, and the patient may sometimes have an impairment they don’t know about. He says this can be measured objectively in the simulator. Rizzo says the simulator is an actual car, a blue Saturn that sits in a basement room in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Rizzo says the simulator uses cameras and electronic sensors on the brakes and steering wheel to test how well patients with certain conditions handle various driving situations. Rizzo says the results give doctors some solid information in determining if a patient should drive the car or park it.
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