Drivers who suffer a stroke rarely bother to complete a professional driving evaluation before they return to driving. According to the results of new research presented recently at the American Heart Association’s International Stroke Conference in San Diego, 51.2% of patients who return to driving after suffering a stroke return to driving within a month after the stroke. Only 5.6% receive a formal professional driving evaluation of their driving abilities before they begin driving.
Among the motorists who return to driving after the stroke, close to half report that the stroke had no affect on their driving abilities. Only 11% report that the stroke did affect their ability to perform important life activities.
The low rates of people who bother to get professionally evaluated for their driving skills after a stroke are alarming. This is especially so because there is enough literature to suggest that there are significant impairments affecting a person’s driving skills after a stroke.
There are several ways in which a stroke can affect a person’s driving abilities. For instance, a stroke can impact a person’s mental abilities, meaning that the driver may require help from passengers. It also may make it difficult to see or obey traffic signs or signals. Other research conducted by the American Heart Association finds that strokes are often associated with immediate and persistence declines in mental abilities that can continue over years. Stroke is linked to a decrease in memory and a significant drop in executive function after the stroke.
A professional driving evaluation does not have to include an on-road test. Not every stroke case an on-road test and there are certain tests that a physician can perform in his office to determine who is likely to fail an evaluation conducted on the road. For instance, a physician can use a road sign recognition test in which the patient are asked to match road signals to driving scenarios. A compass task and a test for measuring visual scanning as well as visual-motor scanning abilities can help determine to what extent the person’s vision and attention have been affected by the stroke. Patients who do not perform well on these tests can be asked to take an on-road assessment of their driving skills.
Those office-based tests, developed by a group of researchers in Belgium in 2011, reveal that a driving skills assessment performed in a physician’s office can help predict the level of safety the driver may experience when allowed to get behind the wheel after the stroke.
The Indiana personal injury lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP represent persons injured in car accidents across Indiana.