Brain Waves: UAB Traumatic Brain Injury Model System Newsletter Volume 16 | Number 1 - Page 3

• If you’re prone to fatigue, you can’t maintain the stamina needed for driving and drive tired, which impairs all of the skills needed to drive. You may even fall asleep at the wheel. Do people drive after brain injury? Yes, but not everyone. People with minor head injuries, like with concussions, will not likely have any lasting impairment of driving skills. They can usually return to normal driving fairly quickly. For people with moderate to severe brain injuries, driving isn’t recommended in early days of recovery. But it’s a major goal to set and start working towards early on in recovery. Between 40 and 60 percent of people with moderate to severe brain injuries will eventually be able to return to driving. Here’s why. • Changes in driving skills that • happen after brain injury can improve over time. Many of the skills needed for driving can be improved with training. Still, many of those with moderate to severe brain injuries don’t fully recover all of the skills needed to drive in all situations. Some may only be able to drive in certain situations. Here are a few examples. mild ones, and don’t drive in situations that you don’t have the skills to manage. Practice good driving habits and follow traffic rules, such as stop signs and speed limits. Don’t use drugs or alcohol. • • Are some people unable to drive after brain injury? Some people simply don’t recover the skills needed to drive safely in any situation. Here are you some things for you to know. • You can ask for a driving evaluation and training, but it’s important to accept what the doctors and therapists tell you. If they decide you don’t have the skills to drive, arguing that your skills are as good as those of many other drivers will not convince anybody to let you drive. If you can’t drive, there is no reason to be angry with your family about it. Your family members are not the ones that decided that you can’t drive. Not being able to drive is a hassle and can be hard to accept, but it truly is the best for your safety and the safety of all others on the road. Accessible and reliable transportation is a critical part of getting back into the community after injury, so it’s important to use other transportation options. This can include family, friends and public transportation. • • • • • Drive less if you get tired easily • Drive only during the day if you have poor night vision • Drive only on roads you know to • • • avoid getting lost or confused Drive only when traffic is light to avoid a lot of distractions. Drive with your phone and radio off to avoid distractions. Drive only in ideal weather What steps can I take to return to driving? It’s a good idea to follow 3 steps. 1. Check your state laws. Each state If you return to driving in any way, you always have to show good judgement. • When first resuming driving, have • a family member ride with you and provide supervision. Accept any loss in skills, even 2. sets laws on returning to driving after brain injury. For example, states often require that a person be free of seizures for a period of time, such as 6 months, before returning to driving, or be cleared by a medical professional. Talk with your family members and rehab healthcare provider, which is usually your rehab doctor. 3. A professional evaluation of your driving skills may be recommended. What’s involved in a driving evaluation? Your rehabilitation doctor may order a driving evaluation by professionals certified through the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. There are 2 parts to an evaluation. Each part can be done individually or both parts together. Each takes about an hour to complete. 1. In-Clinic test is needed to review 2. your driving skills and see if any additional training is needed to improve your driving skills. • This test also determines what, if any, special equipment or vehicle modifications are needed to help you drive safely. An on-road driving test can review your basic driving skills. • This also includes how well any special equipment and vehicle modifications work. After the evaluation, a report is sent to the doctor who ordered the evaluation. That person decides if you can return to driving and what, if any, limits are placed on your driving. Here are a few common things you’ll need for your evaluation. • • • • • A doctor’s prescription A valid driver’s license or permit Car insurance A list of medications you are currently taking and prescription eyewear if needed Payment for the evaluation, which usually costs around $300-400 (insurance does not cover this expense). Editor’s Note: This article is written by the editor in collaboration with Dr. Thomas Novack and Dr. Sean Hollis. Portions of this article are adapted from Driving After Traumatic Brain Injury, a factsheet from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center. UAB Traumatic Brain Injury Model System Information Network 3