Prevalence and characteristics of driving difficulties in Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom combat returnees

Henry L Lew, Malissa Kraft, Terri K Pogoda, Melissa M Amick, Patricia Woods, David X Cifu
Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development 2011, 48 (8): 913-25
We studied the prevalence and characteristics of self-reported driving difficulties and examined their association with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans who were seen at a Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient polytrauma clinic. In this study, we used a brief driving questionnaire and chart reviews to assess the prevalence and characteristics of driving difficulties in the following four groups of patients: TBI only, PTSD only, TBI + PTSD, and Neither (neither TBI nor PTSD). Compared with before deployment, 93% of OIF/OEF veterans seen in the polytrauma clinic reported more difficulties with driving in at least one domain, with the most common areas of difficulty being (1) problems with anger or impatience (82%), (2) general driving difficulties (65%), and (3) experiences with near misses (57%). Patients with PTSD (with or without TBI) reported the most significant driving impairments, whereas respondents with a history of only TBI endorsed driving difficulties similar to veterans without either diagnosis. Qualitative analysis of veterans' comments also revealed similar patterns. Self-reported driving problems were common among OIF/OEF returnees. Respondents who had a diagnosis of PTSD (with or without TBI) reported the most severe driving difficulties since returning from deployment. The association between PTSD and driving problems warrants further investigation.

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