Driving After a Stroke

Driving a car is not only convenient, and a majority of the time necessary, but it also provides a feeling of independence. For many individuals who have suffered a life-changing event, such as a stroke, that feeling of independence is important.

Unfortunately, independent driving is not always an option after suffering a stroke, because the event can affect the portion of the brain that controls driving skills, such as reaction time, muscle movement or vision. Signs that someone may not be able to drive safely after suffering a stroke include:
• Difficulty scanning
• Drifting
• Poor judgment
• Confusion
• Inability to follow directions
• Getting lost in familiar areas
• Accidents or near misses
• Easily frustrated

At Good Shepherd, we want to help our patients maintain their independence as long as possible and be sure they are safe on the road. Depending on the effects of the recent stroke, the recovering patient may need to have a driving evaluation completed before he/she is able to drive independently.

A driving evaluation at Good Shepherd takes about two hours, with the first part of the test done in a clinical setting and the second portion conducted in a car with dual controls. The clinical portion includes:
• Manual muscle testing
• Reaction time testing
• Vision testing
• Digit symbol testing
• Trailmaking (to evaluate visual attention and task switching)
• Cognitive testing

The second half of the evaluation takes place behind the wheel to allow our clinicians to test the driver’s road skills in order to ensure safe driving behaviors. During a road test, we also are able determine if adaptive equipment is necessary for safe driving.

Adaptive equipment that could enable a stroke sufferer to drive independently might include:
• A spinner knob for the steering wheel, which enables one-handed driving (for patients with partial paralysis)
• A left-foot gas pedal for patients who cannot use their right foot
• Hand controls

Driving isn’t necessarily impossible after suffering a stroke. Please talk with your physician to obtain the necessary referral for a driving evaluation.

For more information, contact Good Shepherd’s Harry C. Trexler Center for Assistive Technology at 610-776-3157.

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