WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Suggesting a loved one should no longer drive due to old age or a medical condition is a difficult conversation to have. However, thanks to the Driver Evaluation Program at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, seniors and patients are able to maintain their independence and stay safe on the road.
The unique evaluation program is the only one of its kind in Westchester, Putnam and Fairfield counties. "It’s a clinical assessment where we look at somebody’s foundational skills to see if they're able to drive safely, whether they're recovering from a neurological injury or simply an older driver," said Andrea Sullivan, supervisor of Occupational Therapy Out-Patient Services at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital.The assessment takes place in two parts: the first, at Burke, includes a series of tests administered by a licensed occupational therapist. "These tests assess cognition, auditory and visual processing, memory, motor planning and reaction timing," said Sullivan. Upon successfully completing the in-house test, patients are sent to a driving school to receive a road test. If they pass, it's a green light. However, if they don't pass, patients are advised to discontinue driving.
"Based on the test results, we make a final recommendation to a physician," said Sullivan. Cooperative patients who don't pass agree to no longer drive and simply hand over their keys, while those who refuse to relinquish control can have their licenses suspended until approval is granted by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The goal, however, isn't to limit personal freedom. "We want to ensure people are safe, and maximize independence as long as they can," said Sullivan. For those recovering from neurological illness, that can mean working to return to the road. To seniors, a loss of driving can be very difficult, however it can also mean an end to car payments, insurance and worrying about gas. "We try and point out the positive things about not being able to drive," she said.
For families who feel their loved ones are putting themselves and others in danger by driving, Sullivan suggests speaking to their doctor and scheduling an appointment. "Doing that lets us be the bad guy," said Sullivan. In the end, however, it's all for the better.
To learn more about the Driver Evaluation Program at Burke, visit their website.