Program Evaluates Abilities Behind the Wheel

We hear a lot about teenage drivers being involved in accidents, but age or a medical problem could also put you at-risk on the roads.

Admitting your skills are a little off or giving that news to a loved one can be tough. That's where a program at Kansas Rehab Hospital in Topeka comes in.

"I think everybody wants to know they won't put anybody at risk or themselves at risk," says Heather Helton, OTR/L, an occupational therapist at Kansas Rehab.

Helton is part of a program that can evaluate your driving skills. It includes a two-hour clinical evaluation, that examines areas like vision, cognitive abilities, attention abilities and reaction time.

In the area of attention, Helton says a person needs to be able to exhibit skill at dividing their attention. For example, being able to look in the rearview mirror but also being able to see what's in front of you. Vision is also checked beyond just seeing straight ahead. Various tests check out night vision and peripheral vision. Helton says many people with vision problems may not realize they're drifting too far to one side of the road or the other. Tests for reaction time look at how long it takes a person to move their foot from the gas pedal to the brake. Helton says if something suddenly should happen, like the car in front of you stops or something runs out in front of you, you need to get from the gas to the brake as soon as possible.

Helton evaluates people recovering from a stroke or brain injury, as well as generally healthy senior citizens. If a concern can be addressed with adaptive equipment or strategies, she can help with making those adjustments.

Besides the clinical evaluation, there's also an hour of road driving. The total cost is $354 and it is usually not covered by insurance.

Those interested in the driving evaluations can call Kansas Rehab at 785-235-6600, ext. 365.


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