Following up the head injured driver: self versus family assessment.

Newby, Gavin John (1996). Following up the head injured driver: self versus family assessment. PhD thesis The Open University.



Driving is an important issue after head injury. This study explores the usefulness of self and family report measures in enhancing our knowledge of head injured peoples' driving. The data was gained from a screening questionnaire given to a head injury clinic cohort and from separate interviews with both head injured drivers and healthy family members.

Fifty head injured people who had driven pre-injury participated in the screen and 18 of those who had returned to driving participated in interviews with a close family member. It was predicted changes compared to pre-injury would be perceived in head injured people's driving across the domains of driving skills, behaviours/attitudes and accident rates. It was further predicted issues of insight would be raised from differences between the perceptions of head injured people themselves and family members.

Respondents suggested driving was an important issue for head injured people regardless of whether they had returned to driving. Despite this, some had not received information or informed the authorities about their head injuries. Three consistent themes were suggested about post-injury driving. Firstly, there was no evidence of perceived declines in basic driving aspects or increased accident rates. Secondly, specific changes were perceived in: variables similar to the residual psychological difficulties of head injury; head injured drivers' attempts to engage in less risky driving; and the amount of anxiety engendered by driving. Thirdly, although less of an issue than expected, single cases were highlighted where insight may have been a problem.

Although interpretation of the results was tempered by methodological considerations, the findings are discussed and the service implications considered. A further longitudinal research programme has been proposed.

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