The Caregiver's Journey

Driving

Driving is a key mark of independence in our society. Your family member may be eager to get behind the wheel again.

A professional should evaluate your family member’s ability to drive. This evaluation is usually done by an occupational or physical therapist, a neuropsychologist, or a certified driving evaluator.

Good vision and good perceptual skills, such as the ability to judge distances between cars, are required to drive safely.

The evaluation will address the following skills as they relate to driving:

  • Physical skills
    • Ability to physically steer and brake the car, and control speed 
    • Assessment of need for assistive devices for driving 
    • Ability to get in and out of the car
  • Visual/spatial skills
    • Assess need for corrective lenses 
    • Be able to concentrate attention in his or her central vision 
    • Good peripheral vision
  • Perceptual skills
    • The ability to judge distances between cars on the road and space in parking lots
    • Ability to interpret complex visual information, such as following verbal directions to a store
    • Recognize shapes and colors of traffic signs
    • Left/right neglect, no drifting to one side of the road 
  • Speed of motor responses
    • Reaction time
    • Ability to brake or change lanes safely within a reasonable amount of time
    • Ability to process a lot of information and react quickly 
  • Judgment
    • Adequate decision-making skills in an emergency
    • Possess a healthy self-awareness and an understanding of his or her strengths and weaknesses
  • As cognitive skills improve, driving skills may be re-evaluated. Many people with TBI do eventually return to driving and drive safely. Driving skills affected by TBI can be improved through training that focuses on visual scanning, attention skills, and spatial perception.
  • Professionals certified through the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists can provide evaluation and training. A list of experts is found at www.driver-ed.org.
  • In some situations, the loss of skills needed to drive safely may prevent the person from driving again. When this occurs, it is important for the doctor or another appropriate professional to insure that the family member with TBI and other family members understand the reasons.
  • The family must be diligent about enforcing the “no driving” rule. For example, you may need to keep close control of the family’s car keys.
  • If your family member cannot drive a motor vehicle safely, there are other transportation options. Public transportation (bus, train, subway) may be available.
  • Resources for transportation to medical facilities for appointments, to obtain medications, or other needs may be obtained from a variety of sources, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicaid, Community Transportation Association of America, or Disabled American Veterans.
  • Consider driving assistance from family members, friends, church, or community groups.