Comprehensive Driver Program

Our Program
We know one of the most difficult challenges patients face on the road to recovery, after a stroke or brain injury, is regaining the ability to once again drive and safely operate their vehicle. For many patients, driving represents a vital part of their independence and contributes to their emotional well-being and outlook. That is why at the Shore Rehabilitation Institute we have launched a comprehensive driver rehabilitation program, designed to meet the unique needs of disabled individuals while providing them the confidence they need to resume driving.

The primary goal of the program is to help these individuals become more independent by teaching and equipping them to drive safely to work, school, or social and recreational events. The program provides driving evaluations and training for individuals with disabilities that affect their driving skills, including physical, cognitive and/or visual impairments resulting from traumatic injury, illness or aging.

The program includes driving simulation and a specially equipped vehicle for patients to take to the road under supervised conditions.

Current research indicates that many physically challenged people can become competent, safe drivers when given the proper instruction. This instruction should include comprehensive evaluation by physicians and occupational therapists, as well as special training by instructors who are experts in teaching physically challenged drivers. The evaluation provides the patient with an objective assessment of their ability to be an independent and safe driver.

SRI’s program includes pre-driver evaluation, on-the-road evaluation and training, instruction in the use of adaptive equipment, and when appropriate, assistance in preparing for the taking of the NJ state driver’s license test.

Who Should Enter Our Program
Our Driver Rehabilitation Program serves clients who have acquired a disability through illness or injury including physical, visual, or cognitive impairments. These may include clients who have suffered a stroke, traumatic head or spinal cord injury, amputations or those with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease. The program is led by Jennifer Biro, OT, CDRS, who has been an occupational therapist for over 20 years and a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist for over 10 years. Our therapist understands the critical demands of driving and how the ability to drive independently affects an individual’s quality of life.

To enter the program, a prescription from a physician and a valid driver’s license is required.

Pre-Driver Evaluation
All clients receive a pre-driver evaluation by a licensed occupational therapist. The therapist assesses each client’s visual, perceptual, cognitive, functional and physical skills, including reaction time. Recommendations regarding the need for adaptive equipment and additional skills training are based on the results of the evaluation.

On-the-Road Evaluation
When the pre-driver evaluation indicates a need for further assessment, a licensed driving rehabilitation specialist provides on-the-road evaluation of clients. This evaluation is used to assess safe driving skills in various traffic environments, as well as basic driving skills while using the appropriate adaptive driving equipment. A valid driver’s license or permit is required.

On-the-Road-Training
Based on the results of the pre-driver and on-the-road evaluations, the driving instructor will design and implement an individualized driver training plan suited to each client’s specific needs. The duration of the training period varies according to each client’s progress.

Acquiring Adaptive Equipment
Any client who requires adaptive equipment in order to operate a motor vehicle is required to complete a road test at the Motor Vehicle Commission once his or her training is complete. This will enable the client to obtain a license restriction certifying that he or she is able to safely control the vehicle with the equipment present.

Recommendations for adaptive equipment may include:

  • Hand-controlled gas and brake systems
  • Spinner knobs for steering
  • Left foot accelerator

After the completion of the driver rehabilitation program, the patient’s performance and plan of care will be communicated to their physician.

We look forward to working with you or your loved ones to give them the opportunity to lead more independent lives as safe drivers. For more information or to register for our Driver Rehabilitation Program, please call 732.836.4500 or email Jennifer Biro at jbiro@meridianhealth.com.