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Return to Driving after Stroke

Updated: May 8

"My dad who currently holds a drivers license had a stroke about 2 years ago and hasn't driven since. His doctor recommended your company to have him evaluated. Please let me know the steps to get this moving. Thank you."

Return to driving after stroke is the most common reason our clients come to see us. A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident, is caused by either lack of blood in the brain because of a clot or too much blood in the brain due to a bleed. Effects of a stroke can vary from mild strength or sensory loss that resolves quickly to full body impairment and long-term disability. The length of time between having a stroke and getting back to driving usually depends on the severity of the stroke, overall recovery, and the availability of other drivers in the household. For liability purposes, we always recommend that you ask your doctor for medical clearance to return to driving after a stroke, even if your recovery is quick.

Calling our office or scheduling a free consultation is the first step in the process of a comprehensive driver evaluation. We will help you understand what is involved, answer your questions, and work toward getting a referral from your doctor. This establishes communication and can give us important medical information. The evaluation appointment will be a 3 hour appointment with one of our occupational therapists who has a specialty in driver rehabilitation. We will start with in-clinic assessment of skills related to driving – vision, strength, sensation, mobility, brake reaction time, and cognition. From there we go out in our vehicle (that has a brake on the passenger side) for a drive. We start in a neighborhood and go through progressively more complex areas, as appropriate.

After the drive we return to the clinic to meet with the family and discuss our findings. Occasionally we will recommend further training to ensure fitness to return to driving. If someone has a physical impairment we may trial adaptive equipment (such as a spinner knob on the steering wheel) to compensate for any loss of function and complete training with that equipment.

The final step in the return to drive process is for your doctor to send an approved medical form to the DMV. This is in your best interest because it protects against possible future liability and meets the self-report requirement of the state of Colorado. We will facilitate this process with you and your doctor. Our goal is help you get back to driving so that you can do the things that are important to you!


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