Drug-Impaired Driving: Test Without Crashing

Carol Peckham; Gary G. Kay, PhD


June 21, 2013

In This Article

Interview With Gary G. Kay, PhD, on Driving Simulation

About the Interviewee

The use of driving simulators in clinical trials is an interesting new development for testing the effects of drugs on impairment. Medscape interviewed Gary G. Kay, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, Georgetown University School of Medicine and President, Cognitive Research Corporation, concerning his company's simulator -- the CRC MiniSimTM -- and how it is being used in clinical research (Figure 1). Dr. Kay is the author of the CogScreen test battery and is also a senior neuropsychology consultant to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), evaluating pilots for certification who have medical conditions or who are taking medications that could impair flight performance.

Figure 1.

The CRC MiniSim.Image courtesy of Cognitive Research Corporation.

Medscape: Let's start by asking how you became involved in driver impairment testing.

Dr. Kay: I was a Navy psychologist and worked on evaluating pilots to help determine when they could go back to flight status after they had been injured or when they were taking certain medications. After I left the Navy, I had the opportunity to work with the FAA, and I continue to be a consultant in helping them to evaluate pilots. I developed for them a computer-based cognitive test called CogScreen, which assesses the mental abilities that are involved in flying. The test is used in the United States and internationally by airlines and military organizations to evaluate pilots.

I began working with some very early primitive driving simulators around that time and became acquainted with James O'Hanlon, who was developing methods for conducting over-the-road driving tests, in which he would have somebody get into an instrumented vehicle on the highway in real traffic and drive. You could measure the effect of medications on their driving performance. He moved from California to The Netherlands, where he could perform over-the-road testing. I would say this dated back to the 1980s. One of the first vehicles was a Volvo with a camera mounted on it that could measure the position of the vehicle in the lane to assess weaving. O'Hanlon is probably the father of the term "standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP)," which basically is a measure of weaving and is the primary endpoint in much of driving research.

Meanwhile, advances in computer graphics and processing power led to higher-fidelity driving simulators that were more suitable for driving research.


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