ORIGINAL RESEARCH| Volume 102, ISSUE 8, P1568-1575, August 2021

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Return to Driving After Moderate-to-Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: A Traumatic Brain Injury Model System Study

Published:March 07, 2021DOI:



      Describe who is able to return to driving (RTD) after moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), when this occurs, who maintains that activity, and the association with outcome.


      Cross-sectional descriptive study.


      Eight follow-up sites of the TBI Model Systems (TBIMS) program.


      618 participants enrolled in the TBIMS and 88 caregivers (N=706).


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      A survey was completed from 1-30 years postinjury focusing on RTD. Descriptors included demographic information, injury severity, and current employment status. Outcome was assessed at the time of the interview, including depression, quality of life, functional status, and community participation.


      Of 706 respondents, 78% (N = 552) RTD, but 14% (N = 77) of these did not maintain that activity. Of those who RTD, 43% (N = 192) did so within 6 months of the injury and 92% did so within 24 months postinjury. The percentage of people driving after TBI did not differ significantly based on age at time of injury or follow-up. There were significant differences between drivers and nondrivers with respect to severity of injury, seizures, race, education, employment, rural vs urban setting, marital status, and family income. We performed a multivariate logistic regression to examine the association between driving status and demographic variables, adjusting for other variables in the model. The strongest associations were with current employment, family income, race, seizures, and severity of injury. Driving was associated with greater community participation, better functional outcomes, fewer symptoms of depression, and greater life satisfaction.


      Over a span of 30 years, three-quarters of people experiencing moderate-to-severe TBI return to driving a personal vehicle, although not everyone maintains this activity. Employment, race, family income, and seizures are strongly associated with RTD.


      List of abbreviations:

      GOS-E (Glasgow Outcome Scale-Extended), IRF (inpatient rehabilitation facility), PART-O (Participation Assessment with Recombined Tools-Objective Scale), PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), RTD (return to driving), SWLS (Satisfaction With Life Scale), TBI (traumatic brain injury), TBIMS (TBI Model Systems), TFC (time to follow commands)
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