If you or a loved one are among the 2.8 million Americans who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) this year, you may be wondering if driving is still a safe option. If you were injured in a car accident, which is one of the leading causes of TBI, you may be even more uneasy with getting back behind the wheel. At the same time, you may be concerned about losing your independence, or even about losing your ability to care for loved ones. Many drivers not only have themselves to think of but dependents as well. Driving can seem less like a convenience and more like a necessity.
As the stress of this weighs on you, keep in mind that for nearly 3 out of 5 people with moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries, it is eventually possible with rehab and adaptive driving devices to get back on the road. For those who can’t, there are still many transportation options out there.
Traumatic brain injuries are the result of some sort of force causing damage to the brain. They are often caused by car accidents, sports injuries, acts of violence (including combat), and falls. When these incidents occur, they can either cause direct injury to the head or can make it change direction suddenly, which results in the brain impacting the inside of the skull.
TBIs are split into three levels: Mild, Moderate and Severe. Driving is affected differently depending on the level of the injury.
Every TBI is unique. The exact symptoms experienced depend on the severity of the injury, the area of the brain affected, and any other injuries sustained in the same incident. Because traumatic brain injuries are caused by such high energy impacts, it is not uncommon to also have spinal cord injuries, broken bones, damaged internal organs, and other traumas. Full recovery is not always possible, and the victim may face lasting physical, visual, and cognitive deficits that can interfere with normal driving.
With this uniqueness in mind, our driving assessments will help a patient understand their new driving skills and give possible therapies to improve those abilities.
Nearly nine out of ten TBI victims experience some sort of visual problems. Often, this can be the biggest cause of driving challenges, but may be forgotten about or misunderstood as a neurological issue.
At Next Street, we come to you. In many cases, we meet with you in the comfort of your own home and carry out an assessment of your abilities. All you need to do to prepare is to get a good night’s sleep and eat normal meals so you have the strength and energy to get through the visit, which can take up to two hours. Don’t worry about needing to memorize anything, this isn’t a test of your knowledge, it is an assessment of your motor skills and your cognitive and visual abilities.
We start out by taking the time to get to know you and your unique situation. Then we evaluate your visual, physical, and cognitive abilities. We check your visual acuity, peripheral vision, and your ability to move your eyes about and scan your environment. We check your physical flexibility, strength, and coordination. This includes both muscle coordination and hand-eye coordination. There will also be several exercises we do to evaluate your memory, awareness, judgment, and ability to follow directions. If this all goes well, we will recommend you for a behind-the-wheel evaluation at a later date. The driving assessment will observe you actually behind the wheel and allow us to make real practical recommendations for the future.