What exactly is a Driver Evaluation, and do I need one?

There are many reasons why an individual might require a driving evaluation. However, let’s review exactly what a driver evaluation is before we address the reasons why.

What is a Driver Evaluation?

A Driver Evaluation is a comprehensive set of physical and/or cognitive assessments performed by a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS). The purpose of the assessment is to evaluate an individual’s cognitive and/or physical limitation related to safely operating a motor vehicle. 

Who can benefit from an Evaluation?

Any individual who has a cognitive and/or physical limitation or impairment that is interested in regaining their independence by operating a motor vehicle. Also, any person who has been questioned by a family member or a physician concerning their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

What can I expect in a Driver Evaluation?

The evaluation generally consists of both a clinical and behind-the-wheel assessment. The clinical assessment includes tests of physical function, vision, perception, attention, motor function, and reaction time. The behind-the-wheel assessment includes actual driving performance tests. Based on the evaluation results, the evaluator will determine whether the individual has the ability to drive independently or at all, and whether they require additional rehabilitation or training. Evaluations can average a few hours long, depending on the unique needs of the individual.

What type of modification equipment might I be prescribed?

Everyone’s needs and situations are different, however, the most popular vehicle modifications and installation of adaptive equipment are:
• Lowered floor, wheelchair accessible van
• Wheelchair or scooter lift
• Hand controls
• Transfer seat
• High tech, electronic driving systems
• Wheelchair restraints
• Docking systems

Now that I know what type of modification equipment I need, there are so many options to choose from. How do I determine what best suits my specific needs?

One of the first steps in determining which vehicle is going to be right for you is to decide if you are going to be a driver of the wheelchair accessible vehicle or if you are going to be a passenger or transporter. All vehicles do not work the same. Drivers have the choice of driving their vehicle from their wheelchair or transferring from their chair to the driver's seat.

The height/weight of the wheelchair user, wheelchair, and any other mobility equipment will determine the ability to enter, exit and maneuver within various wheelchair vans. The key dimensions will also help determine what seating positions are available to the wheelchair user. In general, average to small people will have more options than those who are larger or taller. Key dimensions:
Height as measured from the floor to the top of the person's head while seated in the wheelchair
Width of the wheelchair at its widest point
Width of the wheels on the wheelchair
Length of the passenger while seated in the wheelchair---including leg extension and/or any equipment mounted on the back of the chair
Combined weight of the passenger and the wheelchair

An important factor is to determine how many people are going to need to be transported in your vehicle. Another key factor is determining where it is going to be stored. This is going to determine whether you are going to be better suited for a rear or side-entry vehicle.

There are several different features available on different vans:  backup camera, navigation aid, power sliding driver and passenger doors, rear air, satellite radio, sunroof, DVD player, removable seats, as well as many others.

What are my next steps?

Your budget should be the first consideration when you are in the process of purchasing your new vehicle. What is your maximum budget you would like to spend? What type of monthly payment are you comfortable with? What will be your funding sources?

Now that you have answered these preliminary questions, let's get you in touch with one of our mobility experts. From here, your mobility expert will be able to help ensure that you find the right wheelchair accessible vehicle or mobility equipment to best suit your individual needs. Your mobility expert is also going to be a great resource when learning about different options, such as financing when it comes to the point of purchase.