I have Multiple Sclerosis, can I drive? (part-two)
In our first article on Multiple Sclerosis and driving we covered the warning signs to look out for when the daily task of driving is mixed with a medical condition called Multiple Sclerosis. Also in this previous post we looked at 7 tips to increase safety when driving with MS symptoms.
Do I throw away the keys because I have MS? Or is there an alternative?
Just because you have MS, this does not always mean that this is the end of the road for your driving. You may have experienced some or more of the warning sings highlighted in our first blog post of this series. But, there are options to explore to see if driving can be made safer. At Williams OT, we believe that the sooner you explore these options, the better you are prepared for when safety becomes an issue.
Do I need a comprehensive driver assessment?
If you or others are concerned about your ability to drive, you may consider obtaining a comprehensive driving evaluation. Driving assessments assess the impact of the MS on your function and helps to pinpoint the reason why you may be experiencing any challenges. The assessment is also an opportunity to explore appropriate adaptive equipment and techniques to increase your safety on the road, now, when you relapse, or as the condition progresses.
What is involved in an assessment?
The comprehensive driver assessment typically includes:
- The occupational therapist will explore the importance of driving for you. It will include the meaning behind the activity and the destinations you need to get to.
- It will include a review of your medical and driving history, and a look at how MS affects your performance with driving, any issues while driving you may have and includes a verbal history of any motor vehicle accidents or near misses.
- Before you drive the occupational therapist may assess
- strength, range of movement, coordination, sensation and motor speed
- Vision including visual acuity, depth perception, color vision and road sign recognition
- Cognitive performance to determine how quickly your brain processes information and how MS may be affecting memory, visual searching and visual-spatial relations
After this initial assessment, the occupational therapist will conduct an on road test, which will generally begin in low traffic areas and proceed to more complex or higher traffic areas. Your ability to safely operate the car will be evaluated and be compare to the findings of the initial assessment. The assessment will include:
- Ability to transfer safely in and out of the vehicle
- Ability to stow any assistive devices like a wheelchair, walker, cane
- Ability to follow the rules of the road
- Reaction time in identifying potential hazards on the road
- Reaction time maneuvering the vehicle and moving your foot back and forth between the gas and brake pedals
- Visual searching, scanning and attention abilities n Use of good judgment before executing a maneuver (e.g., a left turn)
- Ability to multi-task
- Ability to stay within a lane and to change lanes safely
- Safety awareness while driving
The occupational therapist assessment is designed to look at maintaining or improving function, not take it away.
It is important to remember that the assessment is designed to help a client with MS maintain or increase safety behind the wheel of the car. It is not an assessment to take drivers of the road. The thorough assessment allows the occupational therapist to determine alternatives to help compensate for any functional concerns.
Specialized adaptive equipment may be recommended to help you adjust for symptoms that interfere with your driving. Aids may be recommended for relapses only and may not be a permanent requirement. Aids and equipment could include:
- Mechanical hand controls to operate the accelerator and brake
- Left foot accelerators
- Spinner knob to turn the steering wheel
- Adaptive steering and/or braking mechanisms that require less effort
- Hi-tech driving equipment for accelerator, brake and steering control using a joystick or other one-handed devices may be an option for those with more involved physical impairments
- Wide angle rear view mirror, larger outside driver and passenger side mirrors and/or a multi-panel rear view mirror
- Specialized seats to ease car transfers
- Lifts for stowing wheelchairs and assistive devices
- Lowered-floor vans equipped with a ramp or lift to accommodate a wheelchair
Need to know more?
Williams Occupational Therapy driver assessment and rehab service can help clients with MS stay safe on the road. If this sounds like you and you want to know how an occupational therapy assessment could help you, please call us on 08 8125 5316 or contact us here.
To find out more about Williams OT, please explore other areas of our website, or email or call us today to discuss your needs.
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