Occupational Therapy: What is an OT Driving Assessment?

An occupational therapist’s primary goal is to help restore and maintain a person’s independence, after this person has experienced an illness or injury that resulted in limited mobility, a medical condition, or a disability. Oftentimes, individuals who are suffering from instances like this can no longer drive, or experience issues while driving. An occupational therapist can help with this.

There are a number of different methods used by occupational therapists to determine the exact limitations an individual may face when getting behind the wheel of a care, and one of these methods is known as an OT driving assessment.

What is an OT driving assessment, how do they work, and who needs them? Find out below! 

What is an OT Driving Assessment?

An occupational therapist’s driving assessment is designed to determine the person’s capabilities behind the wheel of an automobile, and it encompasses three different areas: visual acuity, cognitive abilities, and physical abilities.

Each of these categories provides an in-depth look into what the individual may be capable of while engaged in everyday driving activities, with each category involving its own unique testing methods. These tests are usually divided amongst two separate components – pre-drive testing (done before actually sitting in a vehicle), and post-drive testing (done after having engaged in some sort of driving activity).

Pre-Drive Testing   

Visual Acuity 

This type of test measures how well you can see things that are far away or close up. An occupational therapist will ask you to read letters on an eye chart, with the smallest line of text you can clearly read denoting your visual acuity.

Cognitive Abilities

This type of test measures how well you process information that is given to you through what you see or hear. An occupational therapist can conduct this test using a number of different tools and methods, including things like drawing boards and written exercises.

Physical Abilities 

This category incorporates several sub-types of testing – Strength, Flexibility, Dexterity, Reaction Time, Speed, Agility, Balance, Coordination. In each case, there are specific tests that assess for these abilities when behind the wheel of a car. And while not every person who suffers from a condition that limits their physical mobility may have all of their abilities assessed during the driving assessment, there are some most commonly tested for.

Reaction time – this test measures how quickly you can turn your head and look at something that has appeared in your peripheral vision.

Speed – this test provides an estimate of just how fast a person is capable of traveling while they are driving, along with being able to stop when necessary.

Coordination – this tests assesses whether or not a person can maintain control of the vehicle while simultaneously looking out for other motorists and pedestrians.

Balance – This test determines if a person is able to avoid sudden changes in speed or direction, as well as determine how easily they could recover from such an occurrence.

Agility – Agility testing evaluates how a person’s body will react to the varying speeds and conditions of the automobile.

Post-Drive Testing 

This category of driving assessment tests are performed after the individual has finished up their driving activity. An occupational therapist will usually have someone else drive them around, while they observe how this person does behind the wheel. 

If necessary, another test will be conducted using a driving simulator, which allows an occupational therapist to conduct tests in any weather condition imaginable (snow, ice, fog, heavy rain). After these initial tests are completed by an OT, corrective measures can be taken if need be in order help make drivers more capable when operating their car or truck.

Once these various assessments have been completed by an occupational therapist who specializes in driver testing, he/she will be able to complete a report that will detail their findings. 

The report should include, at the minimum, how many times they conducted each test (visual acuity, cognitive abilities, physical abilities), and what their overall impression of you was. This should be done along with providing some suggestions for any necessary corrective measures that could turn an individual into a better driver.

In the end, having a driving assessment conducted by an occupational therapist can help those who suffer from physical limitations realize their full potential as a driver. This is done through providing individuals with the means to achieve better visual acuity, maintain better cognitive abilities , and function more effectively physically.

Compassionate Occupational Therapists on the Sunshine Coast 

Coastal Rehab practices occupational therapy with a patient-centric philosophy aimed at reducing the barriers to success. They care about their clients and genuinely strive to help them achieve health, happiness, and fulfilment, and want to see every client attain a happy and independent life.

Coastal Rehab has provided professional OT rehabilitation and assessment services to the Sunshine Coast community for more than two decades. When working with them, you are guaranteed to receive the utmost respect, understanding, and expert opinion on your case.

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