How to Find a Driving Rehabilitation Specialist in Your Area
There reaches a point in many patients’ rehabilitation journeys where they want to achieve full independence through the means of being able to drive again, and to do this, they need to find a driving rehabilitation specialist to help.
One of the most common emails we get from the non-occupational therapist general population happens to be along the lines of “How do I find a driving rehab specialist?” when someone is wanting to drive again. Because of this, we wanted to share how people that are not OTs can find one, along with some important information about driver rehab specialists that we can all benefit from, whether you are an OT or not.
Many occupational therapists are not certified driver rehabilitation specialists, and as OTs we may have to go about the task of finding someone to refer our patients to. Being able to drive plays such a large role in a person’s independence, so it’s important to understand the process of helping a person get back on the road if they are able.
Even if you never practice in driving rehabilitation, it is still important to have an understanding of the process so that you can educate your patient on it.
This article will highlight what the role of a driver rehabilitation specialist is, the different types of people involved in driver rehabilitation, what an evaluation will include, vehicle adaptations that can be made, and perhaps most importantly, how to find a driver rehabilitation specialist.
What is a driver rehabilitation specialist?
A driver rehabilitation specialist is an individual who helps people with their difficulties in driving as a result of a disability from illness or injury, or from aging impacting their skills. They provide the following services:
- They complete a driving assessment and identify any physical, cognitive, or visual impairments that may impact an individual’s safety while driving.
- They identify what adaptations to the vehicle a person needs.
- They identify whether a person needs further rehabilitation before being deemed safe to operate a vehicle.
- They also work with patients to improve their driving skills.
Two types of driver rehabilitation health care professionals:
- Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist: these are generally healthcare professionals with extensive training in driver rehabilitation, and they have passed an exam offered by The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED). It is the highest standard of practice in the field of driving specialists. You can read more about the ADED exam here.
- Driver Rehabilitation Professional: These are professionals that have undergone training to be able to offer “basic and low-tech driver rehabilitation programs” (1).
Based on the type of driving assessment that you or your patient require, they may require a certain driver rehabilitation health care professional.
A quick note: many driving rehab specialists are occupational therapists due to our holistic educational background, but it is not a requirement to be an OT to work in driving rehab.
How do I find a driver rehabilitation specialist?
If you live in the USA, then you will be able to find a driver rehabilitation specialist using the ADED’s ‘Find a Provider’ portal. Using this portal, you can find a certified driver rehabilitation specialist or a driver rehabilitation professional in your area. You can then narrow it down to the state you are looking for as well as which program you or your patient requires. It will then provide you with a map and a list of the providers in the designated area.
Another very helpful option for US residents is the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)’s own Find a Driving Rehabilitation Provider platform that helps you locate driving rehab providers by state or zip code.
If you are not in the US you can utilize Google Maps and search for terms such as “Driving rehab” or “Driver rehabilitation” in your area to help you find out if there are local options. You can use Google Maps in any area to do this, including the US in case the above mentioned platforms aren’t turning anything up.
If you are in a rural location and cannot find a driving rehab specialist, complete a search in the large cities that you are closest to.
What does a driving evaluation entail?
If you are a rehab OT, you will not be completing a driving evaluation without any formal training; however, you do still want to be aware of what it entails to educate your patient on the process. Furthermore, you will need to have some knowledge of returning to driving in order to refer appropriately to the driver rehabilitation specialist.
A driver rehabilitation specialist will assess the following skills needed for driving:
- Vision (acuity, visual fields, depth perception)
- Visual perception
- Muscle strength
- Range of motion
- Cognition (attention, memory, problem solving, decision-making, information processing)
- Reaction time (this plays a role in how quickly you can press on brakes or turn your steering wheel to prevent an accident)
The following will also be done:
- A review of the patient’s medical information, medication being taken, and medical history
- Driving history and license (how frequently one drives, the length of the trips, their familiarity of the area, and the time of day for the driving)
- Assessing possible vehicle modifications that may be needed
An ‘on-the-road’ assessment will also be completed in order to assess your safety while driving on the road. This can begin in a parking lot, progress to quiet roads, and then progress to busy roads and highways as indicated. This will help determine the patient’s fitness to drive. The evaluation will be done in a dual control car with a brake on the passenger side to ensure everyone’s safety during the evaluation.
By conducting a comprehensive evaluation, a driving rehabilitation specialist can identify potential barriers to safe driving and formulate a plan to address them.
The driver rehabilitation specialist can create an individualized training program to address any detected impairments after evaluating the person’s driving abilities. This may involve addressing the underlying impairments in therapy, actual driving practice, and simulation activities.
The purpose of the training is to make each participant a safe and confident driver by customizing it to their own requirements and talents. The driver rehabilitation specialist will collaborate closely with the person to monitor their development and the efficacy of the program.
Assisting with vehicle adaptations
Having the correct vehicle adaptations can be the sole difference between a patient being able to drive independently or not. The driver rehabilitation specialist may recommend the use of adapted driving techniques or car modifications and teach the patient how to use them. These can include:
- Hand controls: to operate a vehicle with your hands only, when you have an impairment in your lower limbs (2).
- Spinner knobs: to be able to steer a vehicle with one upper limb
- Extension controls: this is installed when there is difficulty reaching vehicle controls.
- Foot controls: foot controls are swapped to accommodate a person using their left foot only.
- Orthotic driving controls: to accommodate those with fine and gross motor challenges
- Handicap accessible vehicles: accommodations made for a wheelchair user to access and use the car
If you’d like to read more detailed information about an OT’s role in driver rehabilitation, be sure check out our companion article, Occupational Therapy’s Role in Driver Rehabilitation.
Driver rehabilitation professionals can assist people in restoring their driving independence and enhancing their general quality of life by incorporating adaptive driving equipment and strategies. Driver rehabilitation can assist with a comprehensive driving evaluation, a training program, and assistance with vehicle adaptations.
If returning to driving is not an option after assessment, a driver rehab specialist can also help the individual find safe and alternative means of transportation.
We hope this article helped you with not only finding a driving rehab specialist but also gave you an idea of what you or your patients can expect with the driving rehab process.
- ADED, ‘Credentialing Pathways’, ADED, https://www.aded.net/page/credentials. (accessed on September 23, 2023)
- Love. E, ‘CDRS: Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist’, BraunAbility, https://www.braunability.com/us/en/blog/mobility-solutions/certified-driver-rehabilitation-specialist.html#:~:text=Driver%20rehabilitation%20specialists%20may%20work,adaptive%20equipment%20they%20might%20need. (accessed September 24, 2023)
This article was co-authored by Alexia Stavrou, BScOT and Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L.