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Burke Rehabilitation Hospital Offering Driver Evaluation Program to Measure Driver Safety

Released April 20, 2012

“Burke Rehabilitation Hospital Offering Driver Evaluation Program to Measure Driver Safety”

WHITE PLAINS, NY – April 20, 2012 – There have been numerous incidents recently of elderly drivers losing control and driving into stores, banks, on sidewalks, etc. A few months ago, there was an auto collision in Stamford, Conn., where a pregnant woman, a 4-month-old baby and eight other patrons were injured after a 93-year-old driver barreled his car through a café’s glass storefront. This week, another such case happened in Florida with a 76-year-old driver who lost control of her car and plowed into a busy grocery store. More than 10 people were injured, including an infant.

How can people find out if they or someone they know is still capable of driving safely as they advance in age or after an illness? Burke’s Driver Evaluation Program addresses that issue with a practical simulated test that assesses one's ability to safely drive. The program helps families get an impartial third-party evaluation as to whether or not someone should continue driving. Many of those that are evaluated are elderly or have neurological deficits that could impede their driving abilities. Burke’s Driver Evaluation Program is one of the few programs in the nation that is administered by licensed occupational therapists.

“This program was designed to help determine if the elderly or those suffering from certain illnesses are still able to drive safely,” said Elizabeth Lenehan, OT, supervisor of Outpatient Occupational Therapy at Burke. Additionally, because the program is conducted by a third party, it deflects the responsibility of evaluating the person from a family member to a professional. 

 “It’s a delicate matter,” Lenehan added. “Helping families and individuals determine if someone can continue to drive safely is an important issue as we are living longer and many of us wish to remain independent for as long as possible. We want to ensure that elderly drivers have the appropriate level of understanding and reaction time to be safe on the road.”

The program evaluates vision, perception, attention, reaction time, memory, judgment, safety awareness and cognition. Each is thoroughly assessed to determine if the patient can continue to drive safely for themselves and those around them.  The in-vehicle evaluation, performed by participating certified driving instructors, allows a third party professional to assess how all areas come together during the actual task of driving. This comprehensive testing enables professionals to make a reliable recommendation based on medical knowledge.

The Burke Driver Evaluation program requires a physician’s referral that includes a medical diagnosis and should say ordering a “Driver Evaluation.” A physician’s involvement is required to ensure there is ongoing communication between healthcare providers and family members. Physicians can also directly refer patients, without the patient or the family’s request, who they feel may have compromised driving abilities due to a medical condition.

The program costs $268, which includes the one-hour evaluation, recommendations and a report that is sent to the driver and his or her physician. The cost is not currently covered by Medicare or most commercial medical insurance. For more information about the program, please contact the Burke Outpatient Occupational Therapy office at (914) 597-2326.

The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital is a private, not-for-profit, acute rehabilitation hospital. Founded in 1915, it is the only hospital in Westchester County dedicated solely to rehabilitation medicine. Burke offers both inpatient and outpatient programs for those who have experienced a disabling illness, traumatic injury or joint replacement surgery. Burke is both an acute rehabilitation hospital and medical research center.  Burke’s world renowned doctors and therapists provide state-of-the-art ­treatment, while its research scientists explore the frontiers of neurological medicine. All share the Burke mission to ensure that every patient makes the fullest possible recovery from illness or injury.

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