Driving Performance Under Alcohol in Simulated Representative Driving Tasks: An Alcohol Calibration Study for Impairments Related to Medicinal Drugs

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Abstract

Comparing drug-induced driving impairments with the effects of benchmark blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) is an approved approach to determine the clinical relevance of findings for traffic safety. The present study aimed to collect alcohol calibration data to validate findings of clinical trials that were derived from a representative test course in a dynamic driving simulator. The driving performance of 24 healthy volunteers under placebo and with 0.05% and 0.08% BACs was measured in a double-blind, randomized, crossover design. Trained investigators assessed the subjects’ driving performance and registered their driving errors. Various driving parameters that were recorded during the simulation were also analyzed. Generally, the participants performed worse on the test course (P < 0.05 for the investigators’ assessment) under the influence of alcohol. Consistent with the relevant literature, lane-keeping performance parameters were sensitive to the investigated BACs. There were significant differences between the alcohol and placebo conditions in most of the parameters analyzed. However, the total number of errors was the only parameter discriminating significantly between all three BAC conditions. In conclusion, data show that the present experimental setup is suitable for future psychopharmacological research. Thereby, for each drug to be investigated, we recommend to assess a profile of various parameters that address different levels of driving. On the basis of this performance profile, the total number of driving errors is recommended as the primary endpoint. However, this overall endpoint should be completed by a specifically sensitive parameter that is chosen depending on the effect known to be induced by the tested drug.

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