This week, I checked in with Peggy Gannon at Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville, FL to ask about Driving Evaluations. This is a topic that comes up often in HABIT Healthy Action to Benefit Independence & Thinking® sessions for individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment, so we know how important it is for many people.
Miranda Morris: If someone asked you “why should I get a driving evaluation?” what would you say?
Peggy Gannon, CTRS, CDRS: The driving evaluation gives a snapshot view of your skills at the present time. Even with memory problems people can drive safely. The goal of the evaluation is to provide information on someone’s knowledge of rules, their response times, and physical and cognitive skills both in and outside the vehicle. It can provide verification that your skills in the car are still safe despite changes in thinking. On the flip side, however, if it appears that the memory and cognitive changes are affecting safety, it is important to know that so driving can either be adjusted, or unfortunately, ceased for your safety and the safety of others.
MM: What is involved in the exam? Is there both a written and a driving portion?
PG: The clinic portion is about 2 hours, and the driving portion is about 1 hour. How long we spend behind the wheel depends on how they are doing. We use a Brooks car for the driving, not the client's car. The clinic portion is: a video on driving situations with multiple choice questions; a road sign matching test; and examination of useful field of view (e.g., peripheral vision), brake reaction, vision screen, and gross physical check of arms, legs, neck and trunk. In total, people should expect it to take about 3 hours.
MM: Does taking a driving evaluation provide any legal protection in the event there is an accident if the driver of the vehicle at fault has a memory disorder?
PG: Good question. It provides a snapshot of the person’s ability and highlights how they drove on that particular day. I imagine a good lawyer could make it work either way. It does hopefully show whether a person in several domains, makes safe or not safe choices, which would then go in their favor in a legal case.
MM: Is there any time for family to give you their opinion/observations about the patient’s driving ability as they see it in day-to-day life?
PG: We like to have information from family on how they perceive the client getting the driving evaluation. I usually get input from family, but I won’t say it is 100% of the time. Sometimes the client comes alone or the family leaves quickly and provides very limited, if any, information.
MM: Do you send any documentation to either (a) the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or (b) the referring physician about the results of the exam?
PG: Keep in mind first of all that I am working in Florida, and reporting to the DMV may vary from state to state. In Florida, I send the physician and the medical review board of the DMV my report if (a) their license is under medical review or (b) if it is felt they should not be driving. Many times I send a copy to the client also.
MM: What is the cost of the exam at Brooks Rehab in Jacksonville? Does insurance cover the cost?
PG: It is $420, and insurance does not cover this cost.
MM: How long does it take to get feedback about how someone did on the exam?
PG: Feedback is usually given on the same day at the end of the test.
MM: What if a person does not think they need a driving evaluation, or they cannot get one for financial or other reasons, and the family is concerned about their driving?
PG: Speaking again for those living in Florida, if family has concerns, they are always able to call the medical review board of the DMV. It is confidential and the client will not know who reported them. Check with the DMV in your state to see how this may differ where you live.