The ability to drive is an important part of staying independent. Driving gets us to work, to the grocery store, to the doctor’s appointment, or allows us to visit family and friends near and far.
With driving comes the responsibility to be a safe driver, which is why Johnson County Hospital’s Rehabilitation Department now offers a Driver Assessment Program. Changes in a person’s physical or mental health may cause driving challenges. Many conditions affect a person’s driving ability. Stroke, dementia, vision problems, Parkinson’s disease, cognitive impairments, orthopedic impairments and age-related changes can all hinder safe driving.
Occupational Therapist Lisa Wenzl understands the medical conditions that may affect a person’s ability to drive and is trained to perform a clinical evaluation of a driver’s skills.“Safety for all people in the community is something to strive for. Driving requires multiple skill sets combined at one time and when done properly, affords a person significant degrees of freedom and independence. Independence is a cornerstone for occupational therapy,” Wenzl said.
Johnson County Hospital’s Driver Assessment Program is available to licensed drivers who are at least 16 years old and who have a doctor’s referral for the program. Upon referral, Wenzl will perform a clinical evaluation, testing the individual’s coordination, mobility, strength, vision, reaction time, problem solving abilities and awareness of driving laws.
Driving recommendations are then made based on the results of the evaluation, such as avoiding nighttime driving, highways, or high traffic situations (like Husker football game day in Lincoln). The driver may need to use adaptive equipment or make vehicle modifications. The clinical evaluation may also lead to a referral for occupational, physical or speech therapy to improve upon the skills needed for driving. If the driver needs a behind-the-wheel evaluation, he or she is referred to a certified driving instructor.
In some cases, the evaluation will show that it is no longer safe for the driver to operate a motor vehicle. If it is necessary to stop driving, Wenzl can help develop a plan to replace driving and still have the person’s needs met. The city of Tecumseh also has a handi-bus available for public transportation, which serves Tecumseh and Johnson County.
If you feel your driving skills have decreased or you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that can affect your driving, talk to your provider about Johnson County Hospital’s Driver Assessment Program. Other signs that indicate a need for assessment include friends and family worrying about your driving or if you have had an increase in near accidents. Johnson County Hospital’s Driver Assessment Program is a good way to find out your level of driving skill and to help overcome limitations, making you a safer driver on the road for yourself and others.