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Driving forward solutions to combat nerve damage

Project summary

Some people with diabetes go on to develop problems with the nerves in their feet. This is known as peripheral neuropathy and can affect safe driving. Professor Marple-Horvat is investigating if a driving stimulator and feedback system can help people with peripheral neuropathy get back to driving safely again, and keep their independence.

Background to research

People living with diabetes may develop a condition called neuropathy. This is when nerves in your feet become damaged, causing numbness or pain. This can lead to difficulties with driving. For example, Professor Dilwyn Marple-Horvat has found that people with diabetes and neuropathy may push down on the accelerator pedal too much, causing safety issues.  

Research aims

Professor Marple-Horvat will test a solution that he hopes will get people with diabetes and neuropathy driving safety again.  

He will study 30 people with diabetes and neuropathy and 30 people with diabetes with no foot problems. He’ll first look for any changes in their driving skills using a simulator to find those that could be down to neuropathy.  

Next, he’ll aim to teach the volunteers to use the accelerator pedal safely again with the aid of a feedback signal in the driving simulator. It’ll warn them when they’re not using the accelerator correctly. Participants will use the simulator once a month for six months. Professor Marple-Horvat hopes the feedback will help them to gradually change their driving and develop a safe technique.   

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Up to 50% of people with diabetes may develop neuropathy. Being able to drive safely is essential to help people keep their independence.  

In the future, Professor Marple-Horvat’s research may lead to people with neuropathy having an in-vehicle driver assistance system that works in the same way as his lab simulator and warning device. It should be possible to make it part of a new car's safety systems or add as an extra fitting to an existing vehicle. 

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