Is Road Rage a Side Effect of Traumatic Brain Injuries?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as brain dysfunction caused by an outside force, usually a violent blow to the head. In a report issued to Congress in March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was estimated that in one year alone, TBIs accounted for approximately 2.2 million emergency department visits, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 50,000 deaths. Although a TBI begins with a physical trauma, it quickly leads to a series of chemical and structural changes in the brain — it can affect how a person feels, thinks, acts and learns long after medical treatment and rehabilitation are completed.

The brain is a complicated organ, and there is no way of knowing how it will react in any given set of circumstances. Some injuries leave patients alive but unconscious or severely impaired. Others are seemingly mild, yet cause slight but continual changes in mood, memory, and cognitive abilities. So, it’s not hard to believe that TBIs could affect how people drive.

Working with the knowledge that driver aggression and the risk of driving wrecks are strongly affected by psychiatric factors, researchers in Toronto, Canada, surveyed almost 4,000 adult drivers between the ages of 18 and 97. Conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health from 2011 to 2012 and published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, the study was the first of its kind to examine the link between traumatic brain injuries and aggressive driving behaviors.

In total, 16.7 percent of those who responded to the survey had a history of TBI. The prevalence of brain injury was higher in men than in women.

Those adults who had had at least one traumatic brain injury in their lives were significantly more likely to report that they had engaged in aggressive driving behavior, including threatening other drivers, passengers and vehicles. These same drivers were also more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle wreck that resulted in injury to themselves or others.

Although this data suggests that there is a link between traumatic brain injuries and dangerous driving behaviors, researchers cautioned that they could not be sure if the relationship is causal. Further study is necessary to determine whether TBIs could be a root cause of aggressive driving behavior. Making that determination could lead to the conclusion that other kinds of brain damage or mental illness is directly connected to traffic safety problems. Until that happens, it’s important that TBI survivors monitor their behaviors in high-stress situations – for their own good as well as those around them.

If you have any questions about this topic or believe that someone else’s negligence caused your injury, contact the attorneys at the Pikeville, KY-based Johnson Law Firm by calling 606-433-0682 or filling out our online form.

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