Effects of Upper-Limb Immobilisation on Driving Safety

Doctors are frequently asked by patients whether it is safe to drive with an upper limb immobilized in a cast. In the literature there are no objective measurements of the effects of upper-limb immobilization upon driving performance. Eight healthy volunteers performed four 20-min driving circuits in a driving simulator (STISIM 400W), circuits 1 and 4 without immobilization and circuits 2 and 3 with immobilization. Immobilization involved a lightweight below-elbow cast with the thumb left free. Volunteers were randomized to right or left immobilization for circuit 2, and the contralateral wrist was immobilized for circuit 3. Circuits included urban and rural environments and specific hazards (pedestrians crossing, vehicles emerging from a concealed entrance, traffic lights changing suddenly, avoidance of an oncoming vehicle in the driver's carriageway). Limb immobilization led to more cautious rural and urban driving, with less adjustment of speed and lateral road position than when unrestricted. However, when responding to hazards, immobilization caused less safe driving, with higher speeds, a greater proximity to the hazard before action was taken and less steering adjustment. The effects of restriction upon performance were more prevalent and severe with right-arm immobilization. Upper-limb immobilization appears to have little effect on the ability to drive a car unchallenged, but to adversely affect responses to routine hazards. Advice on ability to drive safely should be cautious, as the impact of immobilization appears to be more subtle and wide ranging than previously thought.

  • Availability:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Abstract reprinted with permission of Elsevier.
  • Authors:
    • Gregory, J J
    • Stephens, A N
    • Steele, NA
    • Groeger, J A
  • Publication Date: 2009-3


  • English

Media Info

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01148125
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 31 2009 9:49AM