Earlier in the week we showed how VR could be used to help those suffering from alcoholism.
Now it seems VR has been used to find out how drinking and drugs affect your ability to drive. Of course common sense tells you if you do either of these activities your driving ability is reduced. But how much do you need to drink and/or smoke for this to occur?
Marilyn Huestis, a scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, used the National Advanced Driving Simulator to tackle these issues one drunken/high road trip at a time.
The driving simulator consists of a car surrounded by a 24-foot dome. Inside the dome is a 360-degree screen displaying the outside virtual world. The dome can tilt and move simulating the sensation of accelerating and braking.
From the driver’s standpoint, the simulator consists of an entire car, sport utility vehicle, or truck cab. Each vehicle cab is equipped with full instrumentation specific to its make and model.
Accelerator and brake pedals utilize software-controlled electrical motors to provide feedback, thus allowing unlimited flexibility in programming specific pedal feedback mechanisms. The steering wheel is similarly designed to allow customized steering response to each vehicle type.
All dashboard indicators are operational, and the majority of control switches are instrumented. Multiple in-vehicle cameras provide customized views of the cab environment.
This study was the first to record people’s saliva, blood and breath samples before, during and after driving in the simulator. In the U.S., the only way to identify the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in a driver’s body is through blood samples. These samples are normally taken 90 minutes and even up to four hours after being pulled over. However, other countries use saliva samples which provide far quicker results.
The study began by asking volunteers to participate in a 45-minute driving simulation. Each participant drove the simulator multiple times under various states of inebriation: sober, after inhaling THC, after drinking alcohol, and under the influence of both THC and alcohol. The route changed each time but always included interstate driving and city driving at nighttime.
Not surprisingly the researcher’s findings were that THC impairs the ability to stay within traffic lanes.
“A concentration of 13.1 nanograms per milliliter THC was an equivalent impairment to that of the illegal limit for alcohol at 0.08 percent at the time of driving,” said Huestis, lead author of the study.
Even more obviously. This study found that the effects of driving while drunk AND high were additive, meaning that if you smoke a joint and drink a beer, you are more impaired than if you had only smoked.
So there you have it. Nothing really new here but VR has helped to confirm what everyone already knows.
Don't drink (or do drugs) and drive. VR is saving lives...