Methods utilised to evaluate reaction time comparisons

There are 3 main methods used to find safer drugs for patients driving vehicles.
These are by using on road driving tests, car simulators or with laboratory techniques to measure human reaction times in response to a stimulus.


On road driving tests usually consist of a road tracking test and a car following test. The parameters most commonly studied include are a standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP), time to speed adaptation (TSA) brake reaction time (BRT) and gain.
In road-tracking tests a subject operates a specially instrumented vehicle over a 100-km primary highway circuit while maintaining a constant speed (95 km/h) and a steady lateral position between the delineated boundaries of the right (slower) traffic lane.
An electro-optical device mounted at the rear of the car continually measures lateral distance separating the vehicle and the left lane.
Gain is measured as the amplification factor between the speed signals collected from both the leading and following vehicles and indicates the magnitude of overshoot in reaction.
The car-following test involves the use of two vehicles. The preceding vehicle is under an investigator’s control, and the following vehicle is under the subject’s control. The test begins with the two vehicles travelling in tandem at speeds of 70 km/hour on a secondary highway. Subjects attempt to drive 15–30 m behind the preceding vehicle and to maintain that headway as it executes a series of deceleration manoeuvres. During the test, the speed of the leading car is controlled automatically by a modified cruise-control system. Initially it is set to maintain a constant speed of 70 km/hour, and by activating a microprocessor the investigator can begin sinusoidal speed changes reaching amplitude of -10 km/hour and returning to the starting level within 50 seconds. The manoeuvre is usually repeated six times.
Between deceleration manoeuvres, the investigator in the leading car randomly activates the brake lights of his vehicle by activating a second mode of the microprocessor.
The brake lights then light for 3 seconds, whereas the speed of the leading car remains constant at 70 km/hour.
The subject is instructed to react to brake lights by removing his/her foot from the speed pedal.


The National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) is located at the University of Iowa’s Research Park at the University of Iowa and is a self-sustained transportation safety research centre. (
This organisation is an independent and self-funded research unit.
All staff and graduate and undergraduate students are funded by external contracts.
It utilises world-class driving simulators and instrumented vehicles to conduct research studies for the private and public sectors.
Driving Simulation research at NADS focuses on assessing cognitive and physical ability, gaining an understanding of driver performance and behaviour, testing vehicle design in virtual proving grounds and training of drivers.
Simulation technologies facilitates the testing of collision warning technologies that uses real human drivers in a range of vehicle types and driving conditions.
A key component of their research is the study of drugs and their effects on driving.
The research areas of interest include human factors, vehicle safety systems, driver impairment, driver distraction, connected vehicle technologies, automated vehicles and simulation and on-road data collection technologies.
The range of driving simulators includes the NADS-1 which is the world’s highest-fidelity simulator.
Additional simulators includes the NADS MIniSim that is a low cost PC-based portable simulator that has 50 MIniSims installed throughout North America.

The STISIM Drive® M500 system is an interactive driving simulator powered by the programmable STISIM Drive® software engine.
It is a fully interactive virtual reality driving simulator that is engineered to utilise cutting edge computer technology. (
The performance measurements include: Accident Counts data such as vehicle, pedestrian, obstacles and off-road information.
Brake and Accelerator data that measures speeding behaviour, reaction time, time to collision and tailgating. Steering and Handling information that measures Lane position and deviation, centreline and edge crossings. Driver Compliance/Attention data that quantifies responses to Signal lights, signs, turning and divided attention.

Cognitive Research Corporations customized driving simulator (the CRCDS) is utilised to measure the effects of trauma, age, neurologic disease, alcohol and fatigue on driving performance. It is also designed to study the effects of a wide variety of drugs on driving abilities in both normal and patient populations. The CRCDS consists of 3 networked personal computers, high fidelity driving controls, and use of multiple, linked video monitors that provides a wide field of view to maximize subject immersion and realism. The driving scenarios developed for the CRCDS were designed to assess an assorted range of psychomotor, divided attention and cognitive tasks involved in driving. (
The simulator uses advanced three-dimensional (3D) graphics that generates realistic representations of various driving environments. The visual environment includes the vehicle dashboard, horizon, roadway, secondary task displays, intersections, traffic control devices and interacting traffic.
Auditory feedback is provided for acceleration limits, engine speed and for an indication of excessive cornering speed, or excessive deceleration when braking.
Steering sensitivity is adjusted as a function of vehicle speed.
The CRCDS enables automated measurements of psychomotor functioning, divided attention, situational awareness and additional cognitive behaviours. CRC has developed equivalent versions of various driving simulation tasks (scenarios) that allow for re-testing while minimizing practice effects. Several CRCDS scenarios have proven to be highly sensitive to both therapeutic and adverse drug effects.

Car simulators like the SimuRide Pro 2010 July edition Driving Simulation ( are a tool to test driver's reflex. Its feature: the "Reaction Time" course can be combined with any vehicle and condition available in this driving simulator. The "Stop" message shows up randomly with any speed and situation. The driver must remove pressure off of the gas and onto the brake; this action is measured and graded by SimuRide.
The reaction time (in thousands of a second) is displayed on the monitor.
This function can be used to measure the reaction time of driver to show the delayed reaction of drunk or distracted driving (talking on the phone).
The SimuRide Professional 2013 edition provides simulation under sunny, foggy and night conditions.
Different terrain conditions can be simulated such as winding roads, maze with obstacles, high volume traffic, changing lanes/traffic lights, driving and parallel parking, bendy road with falling obstacles, city driving with traffic and a new reaction time test. The SimuRide Driving Trainer Simulator series of software will alert the user when an error has been made by flashing a warning on the screen during the drive.
These errors are then recorded in a minute-by-minute report at the end of each drive. This report is printable and refreshes for the next drive.


Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit (BPRU)

The Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit (BPRU) is a broad-based substance abuse clinical research program that encompasses both human laboratory research and outpatient treatment research.

It is located on the John Hopkins Bayview Campus in the Behavioral Biology Research Center, where it has resources for clinical pharmacology and drug-administration studies, outpatient therapeutic trials, and residential laboratory studies.

BPRU is one of very few laboratories that directly examines the effects of such a broad range of drugs administered under controlled circumstances to human volunteers in the laboratory.

Randomized double blind, placebo controlled studies measuring simple, recognition and choice reaction times under standard laboratory conditions at the BPRU, make it an ideal venue to rapidly conduct meticulous research investigations.


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