“Simulator sickness” is a persistent issue in many high speed pursuit training programs, and can really derail a session. Simulator sickness (also called “simulator adaptation syndrome” or “SAS”) has been an issue for as long as there have been modern vehicle simulators. (Trainers first noted this cocktail of nausea, headaches, cold-sweats, and eye strain in the 1950s, with early helicopter sims—although they originally incorrectly attributed it to the vibrations of the heavy machinery used to swoop and swing the practice cockpit.)
While police pursuit training simulators are far less exotic than combat chopper sims, they’re by no means exempt from simulator sickness issues. According to Heather Stoner, manager of operations at FAAC’s Realtime Technologies (RTI) research division:
Simulator sickness is an issue well studied by the University of Iowa. During the course of their research, it was discovered that 10% of the general population will experience some form of distress when operating a simulator. This might be anything from simple eyestrain to nausea, and in very infrequent instances, vomiting. With proper orientation to the simulator device, this percentage can be greatly lowered.
Most drivers will experience no significant simulator sickness symptoms. But since we cannot know which 10% are sensitive to SAS, it’s critical that we acclimate all trainees.
Police Pursuit Training Simulators and Simulator Sickness: The Basics
Like “motion sickness” and “seasickness,” simulator sickness appears to arise from mismatches between a person’s sensory systems. While one system (such as the eyes) insist the body as a whole is moving in one way, another system (usually the “vestibular system,” which relies largely on the inner ear to help you maintain your sense of balance and orient yourself in space) reports otherwise.