Overcoming a Traumatic Injury or a Disabling Medical Condition is Compounded with the Loss of Driving Capabilities. Programs are Available That Assess Whether Driving Hand Controls Can be Used — and Help to Get a Patient Back on the Road.
Think about how many times you use your car in a week — and then imagine that it’s gone. You suddenly find yourself needing to rely on friends and family every time you need to go to the store or to run a simple errand. For people who have suffered a disabling event in their lives and can no longer use their vehicle, this is the reality they must face every day.
Fortunately for many of our clients, there are dedicated physical therapists and driver-rehabilitation specialists that are trained to help people with getting back their independence. One of the many tools being used in rehab training is the use of a driver simulator that specialists use to train patients on the use of hand controls. After the simulator training is completed, they will then decide if the person can continue with an on-road assessment with a specially fitted car that has hand control equipment installed. Once a program is completed and the referring physician approves of the specialist’s adaptive equipment recommendations, hand controls and other sophisticated devices can be installed on almost any type of vehicle to make that happen.
Features of a Driver Training Simulator Are:
- Dashboard equipment with working gauges
- Adapted hand controls for accelerator and brakes
- Adapted steering wheel for one-handed steering
- Interactive simulated highways, city streets, night driving and weather conditions
- Aids in the development of sensory and neuromuscular skills
- Develops behavioral responses to hazardous situations
How Long Will an Evaluation Take?
Depending on the driver-evaluator’s recommendations, a completed training program, assessment and detailed hand control prescription can take several weeks to several months. It all depends on the individual. A driver-evaluator will be able to give their client a better idea of the length of time needed once they have met with the them face to face and conducted a pre-road evaluation.
On Road Driving Assessments
The on-road portion of the driver evaluation program is for functional assessment. The evaluator measures the driver’s vehicle operating skills such as the ability to maintain lane position, speed control, following directions, maintaining distance, reaction times and other critical factors. The evaluation will also include decision making in certain traffic situations, the ability to identify hazardous situations and how easily the driver may become distracted.
Is a Driver Evaluation Always Necessary?
Ordering and installing hand controls in a van, truck or automobile is an extremely rewarding experience for a certified technician and mobility consultant. Generally, they will meet with the client and their driver-evaluator before and after the installation is completed. When the job is finished, the customer is on their way with renewed independence. Mobility equipment dealers, however, can not install hand controls that were not prescribed by an evaluator specifically for the client and for the vehicle to be driven. For insurance and legal purposes, and for everyone’s safety, dealers will not install hand controls without having the driver-evaluator’s written recommendations or a documented history of the driver using similar driving aids in a previously owned vehicle.
Is it Simply Time to Stop Driving?
For older drivers and for those people who no longer feel they can safely drive a vehicle, it is your responsibility to make a sound, reasonable decision. Visual impairment is often a factor in deciding whether to discontinue driving. If you dismiss your impairments, the risk of causing an accident may put other’s lives in danger. Listen to the advice of family, friends and medical personnel when this time comes.
Finding a Driver Assessment Program
To find a certified driver rehabilitation specialist or driving assessment program in your area, contact your doctor, physical therapist or local hospital’s physical therapy department. They should be able to put you in contact with the right person or agency. You can also go to The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists web site and look for the ‘Find for a CDRS’ link.