Driving After Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Physical disabilities and cognitive impairment are the main reasons that an individual may be unable to drive after a traumatic brain injury.
Doctors are required to inform the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles that a person has a health condition which impairs their ability to drive. However, this does not mean a person will never drive again. Nonetheless, individuals that have sustained serious traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) should not drive unless their doctor tells them it is safe to do so.
Some of the factors that affect the likelihood that a TBI survivor will eventually be able to drive include:
- Age (Younger TBI survivors are more likely to recover than older ones.)
- Mental outlook and effort in recovery
- Support team, including his or her doctors, therapists, family and friends (strong, reliable support teams aid recovery.)
- The severity of the primary injury and the resulting complications
- Whether or not the individual had driving experience before the injury (prior driving experience makes re-learning driving easier.)
Evaluating Individual’s Driving Ability
Determining whether a person with an acquired brain injury can safely drive again involves a number of professionals and assessments, including: medical or neurophysical exams, visual tests, and active driving tests (simulated or on-road).
Getting Back on the Road, in British Columbia
In British Columbia, once the survivor, their doctor, and/or healthcare team are confident in their ability to drive safely, the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV) determines the legality of driving – usually authorized testing is all that is required.
Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV)
The OSMV is a BC provincial agency that is in charge of road safety and driver behaviour. The OSMV reviews information from the medical community, law enforcement agencies, and Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) licensing when making decisions about a driver’s license.
The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles may require a driver to take a vision test, a functional driving assessment, a medical and/or other evaluation, in order to help determine whether they are able to drive safely. These may include:
- Driver Medical Examination (DME)
The driver’s doctor must conduct a driver medical examination at the request of the OSMV and submit a completed assessment form to the OSMV
- Functional Driving Assessment
The driver may be asked to complete one of these two assessments:
- Driver Rehab Assessment
- For persons who are seen as being likely to drive safely again after an illness or injury
- The goal is to help the individual to get driving again by offering assessments, lessons, strategies and vehicle modification, if necessary
- This assessment may be the best one for persons with a brain injury
- Community Therapists
Unlike other services which are heavily computerized and focus on a rigid “pass/fail” methodology with little or no opportunity for training, the Community Therapists methodology focuses on the assessment of the client’s rehabilitation potential to return to driving. Where appropriate, clients are offered a comprehensive driver rehabilitation program to facilitate a return to this vital daily activity. For more information about Community Therapists, visit their website.
- Assessment involves an in-clinic perceptual and cognitive assessment and may be followed by an on-road evaluation
- Rehabilitation and compensatory strategies are not addressed
- Not appropriate for those with visual or physical impairment
- Is best for persons with progressive cognitive conditions and impairments
- For more information about DriveABLE visit their website.
Where can I get a functional driver assessment?
- For information about driver rehabilitation programs in British Columbia, visit the brainstreams.ca website.
- Do an OT search through BC Society of Occupational Therapists and select “Driver Rehab Assessment”
How long does the whole process take?
The entire process can take a significant amount of time. The duration depends on the individual’s injury as well as the activity of the groups involved – healthcare team, driver rehab centre, OSMV, licensing.
How much does it cost?
- You may need to pay for the cost of the assessment yourself. The cost can usually be submitted as a medical expense on your income tax return.
- If you have a claim against a third party, speak to your lawyer or call Workers Compensation Board if it covers your claim.
- Functional Driving Assessments centres set their own fees
- Funding may be available from third-party funders (e.g. ICBC, WorkSafe BC) and extended health plans, or through OSMV.