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Sheltering Arms Blog

How to safely return to driving

Sheltering Arms Therapist & Patient

Posted on: January 9, 2018 by Robert Moss

By Meredith Bowen, MOT, OTR/L

The ability to drive is a vital part of independence. For patients who have suffered a stroke or other neurological injury, there are often changes in vision, motor skills, and/or coordination. There is also a lack of awareness in how these deficits impact the ability to drive.

Sheltering Arms Hanover campus has one of only two driving simulators in the area which provides a safe, off-road practice environment to determine fitness to drive after the following diagnoses:
– Stroke
– Traumatic brain injury
– Dementia
– Parkinson’s Disease

Patients testing their driving skills with the simulator benefit from:
– More than 75 pre-designed scenarios, with option of playback for feedback on performance
– Realistic roadway environments with advanced scenario design capability
– Advanced scenario and configuration design
– Visual replay of previous driving sessions

The driving simulator permits occupational therapists to evaluate and address the skills needed to drive before patients get behind the wheel. Therapists measure pedal use, reaction time, steering control, lane accuracy, speed limit compliance, collisions, and off-road accidents. Attention is also evaluated through the use of signals, attention to traffic lights and signs, road hazard avoidance, and divided attention.

Through the use of the driving simulator, therapists are able to collect specific data and provide performance results to physicians to assist these medical providers in making the decision to clear someone to return to drive after a neurological injury or event. Therapists may also refer patients to a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist for on-the-road training/evaluation, restrictions, or adaptations to safely return to drive.

The comprehensive driving assessment begins with paper screenings to evaluate visual acuity, visual/peripheral field, basic motor skills, and cognitive abilities prior to using the simulator. These screenings are offered at any Sheltering Arms location with Occupational Therapy services. For more information or to request an appointment with an occupational therapist, call (804) 764-1000.