Aggressive post-combat driving a top concern for returning troops

Published: Thursday, Feb. 3 2011 8:00 p.m. MST

Wilkerson found himself changing lanes when he approached freeway overpasses — something soldiers do to avoid explosives dropped from people standing overhead. "It'll stick in your head. It subsided after a few months and you realize 'nobody's going to attack me here so I guess I'm good. I'll stay in this lane.'"

Military and Veterans Affairs clinicians are finding that if simulators can effectively help train troops into battle mode, then simulators could also be used to train troops out of battle mode, making simulator training one of the newest therapy tools to help returning troops.

The growth market for Salt Lake-based DriveSafety is building driving simulators used in hospital or clinical settings. Treating post combat-driving problems is the biggest area of interest the company has seen with customers who are hospital therapists, and the company now has simulator systems in 11 military and Veterans Affairs clinics. It is scheduled to install three more next week.

"There is some centralized interest, programs at the federal level," DriveSafety CEO Doug Evans said. "So we think that the concept has the attention of the high-ranking decision makers in the Defense Department. But what we're seeing on the ground are clinicians who are treating these soldiers, who need better tools and see a lot of promise in this technology."

Unlike the aggressive battle scenarios in military training simulators, the therapeutic simulators DriveSafety is building allow clinicians to present driving scenarios that start out with no threats present. "Then they'll have a few things that kind of close in on them a little bit" until the scenario represents the all of the obstacles of every-day driving once a patient improves, Evans said.

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com

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