Immobilisation of the knee and ankle and its impact on drivers’ braking times

A DRIVING SIMULATOR STUDY

A. Waton, R. Kakwani, N. J. Cooke, D. Litchfield, D. Kok, H. Middleton, L. Irwin

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of right leg restriction at the knee, ankle or both, on a driver’s braking times. Previous studies have not investigated the effects of knee restriction on braking performance. A total of 23 healthy drivers performed a series of emergency braking tests in a driving simulator in either an above-knee plaster cast, a below-knee cast, or in a knee brace with an increasing range of restriction. The study showed that total braking reaction time was significantly longer when wearing an above-knee plaster cast, a below-knee plaster cast or a knee brace fixed at 0°, compared with braking normally (p < 0.001). Increases in the time taken to move the foot from the accelerator to the brake accounted for some of the increase in the total braking reaction time. Unexpectedly, thinking time also increased with the level of restriction (p < 0.001). The increase in braking time with an above-knee plaster cast in this study would increase the stopping distance at 30 miles per hour by almost 3 m.

These results suggest that all patients wearing any lower-limb plaster cast or knee brace are significantly impaired in their ability to perform an emergency stop. We suggest changes to the legislation to prevent patients from driving with lower-limb plaster casts or knee braces.

  • Received September 13, 2010.
  • Accepted March 15, 2011.
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