Driving Evaluation Part of a Rehabilitation Program

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 14, 2007 | Go to article overview

Driving Evaluation Part of a Rehabilitation Program


Byline: Susan Frissell

Many of us dread the day when we may have to give up driving due to age, ill health or disability. For most of us being able to drive a car represents independence and freedom. Driving not only enables us to get to the places we want and need to go, it's an activity we have performed for much of our lives. There may come a time though, when our ability to drive safely will be affected by changes in our physical, emotional and/or mental condition.

To assist drivers, their families and their physician in making the difficult decision to give up driving, there are driver rehabilitation programs. According to Jillian Dworak, occupationl therapist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, a driver rehabilitation program provides a comprehensive driving evaluation which includes clinical and Behind the Wheel components. A person's ability to drive is assessed by a specialist, generally an occupational therapist, and he/she will evaluate whether or not someone can return to safe driving.

For stroke victims or those who have suffered a brain injury, the ability to drive a car is very much affected. Strength, coordination or the ability to use or move different body parts, thinking skills and problem solving can be severly impaired. Due to these impairments a person may have trouble using the gas and brake pedals, turning the steering wheel, seeing or being aware of traffic, and/or may not remember familiar locations.

Following a brain injury, testing is often recommended. Usually there are four main professionals involved, including an occupational therapist, driving instructor, a rehabilitation engineer and a physician. The occupational therapist will perform the clinical evaluation, assess for equipment and confer with the physician. A driving instructor performs the actual driver evaluation and provides the necessary training. A rehab engineer develops seating systems, performs wheelchair modifications and recommends or fabricates equipment.

To be seen in a driver rehabilitation program a physician must make the referral and the person must hold a valid driver's license, and pay for the evaluation. Most insurance providers including private insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid will cover the clinical evaluation however they do not cover the BTW cost, additional training or equipment. …

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