Everything You Need to Know About Driving Evaluations

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What is a driving evaluation?
A driving evaluation is a tool used to assess a client's physical, visual, cognitive and decision-making skills that are needed to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Who does driving evaluations?
Mostly occupational therapists, but some physical therapists and driving instructors do them as well. Regardless of which discipline performs the evaluation, they must have specific training in assessment skills needed for the task. Occupational therapists have extensive training in assessing Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) as well as expertise in a number of cognitive assessments that are used for driving evaluations. Some driving evaluators even earn a certification from the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists and carry the title of Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS).

Who orders a driving evaluation?
Like any other therapy referral, driving evaluations need to be ordered by a medical doctor or a nurse practitioner. Families will often discuss the question of driving skills with the doctor of a parent or relative that they are concerned about.

Who needs a driving evaluation?
Clients with the following diagnoses may benefit from a driving evaluation:

  • Stroke
  • Brain Injury
  • Dementia
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Right Lower Extremity Amputation
  • Spinal Cord Injury

What does a driving evaluation entail?
A driving evaluation actually has two parts: clinical testing and on-road testing.

Clinical testing begins with physical and vision testing of specific skills needed for driving. It then progresses to cognitive, memory, decision-making and reaction time testing that assesses more skills that are needed for driving. If the client successfully completes all of these areas, the evaluation then moves to the on-road test. This part is performed using the facility's vehicle for actual driving on various roads that the client may face in their everyday driving conditions.

What happens if the client passes the driving evaluation?
The results are reviewed with the client and/or family, if present, then sent to the ordering physician. The physician has the final decision of the client’s ability to drive, but the driving evaluation results greatly influence the decision.

What happens if the client does not pass the driving evaluation?
The results are also reviewed with the client and/or family, if present, and driving alternatives and retirement from driving is initiated. The results are also sent to the ordering physician and the client must also discuss the results with their physician.

Both the driving evaluator and the physician can counsel the client and family in driving cessation.

Does Ochsner do driving evaluations?
Yes, and has been offering both clinical and on-road testing for over 20 years.

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