A stroke survivor will have a hard time giving up driving if they feel that they can drive safely. In many cases, following stroke rehab, a stroke survivor can learn to drive again. The National Stroke Association estimates that about 80% of survivors successfully relearn how to drive safely. Learning to drive again after a stroke can be requested as part of formal stroke rehab.

The exception to this: Survivors with perceptual problems, for whom driving would be dangerous.

Survivors who should not drive are those who:

  • have trouble judging distance
  • have hemianopsia, resulting in problems to view the entire visual field

 

Getting a Driver’s Evaluation

A person has to have an evaluation which is unique to their abilities and is comprehensive.This is an important part in deciding whether a survivor can return to driving.

A driver’s evaluation must be carried out by a healthcare practitioner with dual expertise. The should be familiar with driving training and the medical aspects of a stroke.

As provided by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the National Stroke Association the evaluation will be likely to include:

  • A medical evaluation, in a medical office, will examine the physical, visual and mental abilities needed for driving safely.
    • Reaction time testing
    • Visual testing
    • Functional ability to make decisions and plan maneuvers
    • Perceptual testing
  • An on-the-road part of the evaluation. This will take place in a dual-control vehicle. The evaluation can include the use of adaptive equipment.

Adaptive Equipment

Here are some adaptive solutions for drivers with limitations:

  • A spinner knob for a driver who has the use of one hand.
  • An automatic car (automatic transmission) would be easier for a driver who has the use of one leg.
  • Difficulty reading/understanding text? Training to read roadside symbols could be an idea. Extra evaluation could be required.
  • A driver who does not have the use of the left extremities can have an indicator extender installed. (A search online for ‘indicator extenders’ will show several providers).

Driver’s Training

Rehabilitation driving lessons will provide hands-on experience on how to use a vehicle on the road. This must be done with specially trained instructors. Regular driving instructors may not be prepared for teaching people who have experienced stroke.

The training may include:

  • Instruction in a classroom setting
  • Driving simulation in the classroom
  • On-the-road training
  • Wheelchair loading lessons
  • Transferring into and out of the vehicle

How to Begin the Process

  1. The occupational therapist, is the initial person to speak to about getting back to driving. Occupational therapists can provide driver evaluations, treatment geared towards driving, direct a person to printed and online resources. Other resources such as specialized equipment can be loaned or purchased from private companies
  2. You can also ask your doctor or the physical therapist for information.
  3. Contact the state office of vocational rehabilitation or the local Department of Motor Vehicles Office .
  4. Much information about driver rehabilitation can be found at www.aota.org/olderdriver .

If you are unsure if a stroke rehab alumni drives safely, speak to their doctor. Request that a qualified healthcare person administer a proper driver’s evaluation.

 

Alternatives to Driving

If you are unsure if you will be able to drive find out about:

  • public transportation
  • volunteer programs
  • taxis
  • a list of friends whom you could call upon.

Resources:

For more information visit:

(AOTA) Driving Evaluations by an Occupational Therapist  

Old Age And Driving (Wikipdeia) 

Conclusion

Stroke rehab is an multi-part process involving several healthcare professionals. A stroke survivor may relearn how to drive safely. It is critical that a driver’s evaluation is successfully carried out.

Stroke rehab could lead a survivor back into the driver's seat!

Stroke rehab could lead a survivor back into the driver’s seat!

Photo by why kei on Unsplash

Please note: The ideas and products mentioned in the text are not endorsed or recommended in any way. The text is for informational purposes only and is not the basis upon which your decisions should be made.