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To drive or not to drive: San Diego program helps people decide

Imagine back to the moment you received your driver's license or your first car purchase; chances are you were elated knowing that you would no longer have to depend on your parents, siblings, friends, or neighbors for transportation. With a valid license and a set of car keys in hand, you had the ability to go where you wanted, when you wanted.

This freedom is something most people cherish, and the thought of relinquishing your legal right to operate a motor vehicle can be hard to swallow. Yet, in order to drive safely, a person must retain their basic motor capabilities, vision, reflexes, and sound judgment. Occasionally-whether due to old age, a medical condition, or a serious brain injury-individuals lose one or more of these necessary skills and therefore pose a danger to public safety whenever they get behind the wheel. Fortunately, researchers at a San Diego area hospital have created an innovative new program to mitigate this danger by assessing people's driving skills through a virtual simulator.

The program is targeted towards a variety of communities, including the elderly, veterans suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, and victims of a debilitating brain or spinal cord injury. It includes a two-hour session in a virtual driving simulator, along with a follow-up session either on the road or in a parking lot.

At the conclusion of the assessment, specialists deliver their honest opinion as to whether or not an individual should continue to drive. While participants may not always like what they hear, some find that the feedback helps them make this tough decision. In the end, preventing a car accident is in everyone's best interest.

Source: NC Times, "DOWNEY: When it's time to park the car." Dave Downey, 2 May 2011

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