Adapted Driving Evaluation: Regaining Independence After Hospitalization

A hospitalization for a neurological injury or illness (such as stroke or head injury), multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, seizures, cardiac episode, amputation or other major illness does not necessarily mean the end of someone’s ability to drive. While an illness may cause weakness or paralysis, visual/speech problems or cognitive difficulties, a driving evaluation should be performed to determine if someone can still safely operate a vehicle. There are many vehicle adaptations that can be made, and there are cases where adaptive equipment may not be needed.

A driving evaluation by a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) is essential.  The CDRS will evaluate the person’s physical and cognitive abilities, including:

  • strength
  • range of motion
  • reaction time
  • vision 
  • cognitive ability

An on-road test will then be performed if the person has a valid license. During the on-road test, the CDRS will determine whether adaptive equipment is needed and what kind. For example, if someone does not have use of both hands, he or she would be required to use an adapted steering device to drive. Or if a driver does not have use or good sensation in his or her right foot or both feet, he or she may be required to use hand controls or a left foot gas pedal.

If the CDRS determines the client can safely drive using adaptive equipment, further training will be provided. The client will also need to be tested by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and a prescription will then be issued for the client to have the equipment installed (by a specialized installer) in his or her own vehicle. 

There are cases where someone may suffer a neurological episode and not need any adaptive equipment. In those cases an evaluation will be done to determine if the client is safe to return to driving. This reassures the physician/family/client that the person has been properly assessed and is safe to be on the road.

Pennsylvania is a mandatory reporting state, which means that a physician is required by law to report individuals who may not be safe to drive. If your physician recommends a driver evaluation, or if you know of someone who has suffered a neurological or other major illness and should be evaluated, contact the Good Shepherd Safe Driver and Evaluation Program at 610-776-8302.

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