Deb McAvoy is an Associate Professor at Ohio University in the Department of Civil Engineering. She works in the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment (ORITE) where she conducts studies in areas such as work zone safety, reaction to first responders (ambulance, fire, police) and driver behaviors. Clients of ORITE include the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the US Department of Justice, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, and a long list of corporations in the driving and transportation industries.
The team at ORITE has been using a DriveSafety RS-600 research simulator for the past two years. Among the research conducted, the group has assessed the effects of nighttime signage, dynamic speed signs, billboard placement, rumble strips, and varying speed reductions on work zone safety. The team has studied the effect of vehicle colors and identification configuration for ambulances, police cars and fire trucks on drivers. The team has also studied the impact of cell phone usage, including receiving and sending text messages, on driver behavior and performance.
Most recently, the research team is embarking on a series of tests with older drivers as the subjects, using the simulator to introduce a series of 15-minute long driving scenarios that become increasingly complex. In each case, Deb and her team have used the DriveSafety RS-600 and its HyperDrive software to create custom scenarios that test specific factors they are seeking to examine.
The first scenario, which is relatively easy, is designed to examine how well subjects maintain lane deviations, vehicle speed, passing, turning right, and pulling into a parking lot and parking. The next scenario, considered medium difficulty, tests how participants do when getting on a freeway, merging with light traffic, changing lanes when the freeway splits, and exiting the freeway. The final scenario, considered the most complex, tests how subjects do in dual left turn lanes, stopping across signaled and non-signaled intersections, and navigating urban rush hour traffic.
“With our DriveSafety simulator, we have virtually limitless options for testing behaviors to just about any kind of scenario,” said Deb. “The complexities of driving are well known. The DriveSafety Simulator has helped us uncover and then document those complexities with a high degree of accuracy.”
Marc Samuels is an Occupational Therapist (OT) and a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California, where he is part of the Driving Rehabilitation Program within the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) Department. The program employs two DriveSafety simulators, the RS-600 and the CDS-250 with wheelchair option. These simulators help facilitate Marc in conducting breakthrough research and supporting physicians with in-depth clinical work.
“We are constantly exploring new ways to uncover findings in the areas of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” says Marc Samuels. “With the simulator, we can introduce triggers that elicit responses from the patient in a safe and controlled environment. We can also train patients on ways to overcome limitations and practice new patterns of responses in a protected environment.”
Marc sees patients who have been referred by physicians, psychiatrists, orthopedists, optometrists and a host of other medical professionals in the VA Palo Alto Hospital. Through detailed studies working closely with patients with multiple injuries (or polytrauma), Marc has been able to better understand the factors contributing to limitations and then determine appropriate therapeutic interventions. They have even added eye-tracking technology and EKGs to the simulator to monitor behavior as well as physiological responses.
“The DriveSafety simulators allow us to set precise scenarios repeatedly with a wide variety of patients,” adds Marc Samuels. “This repeatability across a broad sample aids in our research and helps limit the uncontrollable variables that exist on the open road or even in a parking lot.”
With the simulators, Marc can tailor fit the scenarios and the triggers to check specific reactions and then zero in on patient specific appropriate training.
For patients suffering from PTSD or TBI, the simulator is a welcome tool because it can allow patients to do something active to assess where they are functionally. This can help establish a clearer roadmap for moving forward in their individualized rehabilitation program. Once therapists know precisely where the patients functional challenges are, therapists can then guide them in overcoming those issues and potentially regain their driving competence. What’s more, they can do all of this in a setting that doesn’t put them or someone else at risk.
“I’m continually learning new things in the area of injury recovery,” says Marc. “The DriveSafety simulators are valuable tools in the evaluation and therapeutic intervention process with our veterans.”
Dr. Matthew Rizzo is the Professor and Frances and Edgar Reynolds Chair of the Department of Neurological Sciences and Lead Physician of the Neuroscience Clinical Program at UNMC. He has led many successful multidisciplinary NIH and industry research projects addressing behavioral sequelae of neurological disorders, advised the US Army on its translational neurosciences research program, and multiple organizations and governments on evidence-based strategies for evaluating and supporting vulnerable human operators.
He has won continuous federal support for productive research across his entire career. Dr. Rizzo was the first to integrate high fidelity simulators into clinical settings and has developed some of the most advanced instrumented vehicles in experimental and naturalistic settings to study driver performance, research, and “behavior in the wild”. He is the founder and director of the Mind & Brain Health Labs and author or co-author of over 300 scientific articles and reports. Dr. Rizzo earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University and his MD degree from the Johns Hopkins University.