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Driving and Traumatic Brain Injury

Frequently Asked Questions

►How do I get an evaluation started? 

►What does a driving evaluation cost?
►Will my insurance cover the driving evaluation?
►Where can I get more information?
►How can I contact the Driver Rehabilitation Program?

►If I had a traumatic brain injury, do I need a driving evaluation?
►After a traumatic brain injury, is my license still valid?
►Why should I have an evaluation if my license is still valid?
►Does the doctor notify the state if I have had a traumatic brain injury?
►How does the state become aware of my traumatic brain injury?
►How does my medical team address the issue of driving?
►How will I know if my physician has reported my traumatic brain injury to the state?
►After my traumatic brain injury, how do I know when I can return to driving?
►At what point in my recovery is it appropriate to start a driving evaluation?
►What if I can’t use my right leg and/or arm? Or I can’t use my left arm?

How do I get an evaluation started?

Discuss your readiness for driving with your physician or medical team. Obtain a prescription for a driving evaluation and contact the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Driver Rehabilitation Program at 616.242.0343 or 800.528.8989 to begin the process. (Back to top)

What does a driving evaluation cost?

Contact the Mary Free Bed Driver Rehabilitation Program at 616.242.0343 or 800.528.8989 for information regarding fees. Our staff can also help identify potential funding resources. (Back to top)

Will my insurance cover the driving evaluation?

If a traumatic brain injury is the result of an automobile accident, no fault insurance will frequently pay for an evaluation. Because medical insurance companies do not consider driving a medical necessity, driving evaluations generally aren’t covered by major medical plans. (Back to top)

Where can I get more information?

You can find more information by visiting the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists website, or view driver rehabilation specialists in Michigan(Back to top)

How can I contact the Driver Rehabilitation Program?

Please call or email for more information at 616.242.0343, or 800.528.8989, or driverrehab@maryfreebed.com(Back to top)

If I had a traumatic brain injury, do I need a driving evaluation?

A traumatic brain injury can change a person's decision making, processing time and ability to react to the world around them. A traumatic brain injury can affect how a person navigates when walking, arranging information, or completing daily living tasks, including driving. Some changes can be subtle, others can be more dramatic, it’s not uncommon for those who experience traumatic brain injury to be unaware that perceptual and processing skills are altered. For this reason, driving evaluations are recommended for those who experience a traumatic brain injury to ensure that the affects of the traumatic brain injury aren’t interfering with safe driving.

A driving evaluation is completed in a safe environment that includes a combination of clinical testing and actual on-road driving in a vehicle equipped with an instructor's brake. The instructor’s brake allows the evaluator to stop the vehicle to avoid a collision or involvement in a situation that could cause a collision, such as not stopping at a stop sign or at a red traffic light. When the evaluation is complete, a recommendation is made to you and your physician on whether or not you can safely return to driving. (Back to top)

After a traumatic brain injury, is my license still valid?

If you have not received notification from the State of Michigan, and your license has not expired, then most likely your license is good. If information is reported to the State of Michigan and action is taken, the driver will be notified in writing at the address currently on his or her driver’s license. (Back to top)

Why should I have an evaluation if my license is still valid?

Although your license is valid, you may not have medical clearance to drive. The major concern in this situation is safety, as you have experienced a medical change that can effect driving. If you successfully complete a driving evaluation, a report is written with recommendations to indicate that you have been medically cleared for driving. This report becomes a part of your medical record.(Back to top)

Does the doctor notify the state if I have had a traumatic brain injury?

Usually, a physician doesn’t inform the State of Michigan of your medical condition because of federal protections for the release of health information. However, a physician can choose to inform the state about concerns regarding you driving after a traumatic brain injury. This may occur if you are at high risk for collisions because of how the traumatic brain injury affects your processing of information and judgment, or if you ignore a recommendation from the medical team and indicate that you will return to driving anyway. (Back to top)

How does the state become aware of my traumatic brain injury?

The Secretary of State office for the State of Michigan depends on you, your family or your physician to report to the state any medical conditions that may effect your ability to drive. At Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, this can be accomplished by a physician, a family member, or by the patient. You complete a state form and mail it into the Department of State or you, your physician, or a family member may appear in a Secretary of State office and inform the clerk that you have experienced a traumatic brain injury and that you wish to surrender your license (individual). (Back to top)

How does my medical team address the issue of driving?

Often, traumatic brain injury patients will ask if their license is still good. They assume that their admission to a medical facility means that the facility’s staff is aware that their medical changes may affect safe driving, thereby making their license automatically invalid. This isn’t true. Your physician may discuss driving with you and even recommend that you not drive at this time. Generally, this conversation is kept confidential among you, your family, and your physician. Sometimes, the conversation is noted in your chart to serve as later documentation that you were informed not to drive. It’s up to you to resolve the medical recommendation not to drive, which you can do by receiving medical clearance from your physician before returning to driving. (Back to top)

How will I know if my physician has reported my traumatic brain injury to the state?

If your physician has notified the state of concerns regarding your driving, you will be notified by mail to report to Driver Assessment, a branch of the Secretary of State’s office that deals with driving and medical issues. The notice will arrive at the address currently on your license in a standard size envelope that bears the State of Michigan seal. The enclosed letter will give you the date, time, and location of a meeting. When you appear for the meeting, Driver Assessment will help you work through the process of getting a medical clearance for driving. (Back to top)

After my traumatic brain injury, how do I know when I can return to driving?

If you have a medical condition that could impact your ability to drive, you should get medical clearance from your physician before driving. Physicians may handle this in different ways and it may depend on the severity of your disability or diagnosis. Your physician may require that you complete a driving evaluation with a driver rehabilitation program prior to retuning to driving. (Back to top)

At what point in my recovery is it appropriate to start a driving evaluation?

Your physician or medical team will help you decide when it’s appropriate to address driving. There’s no standard time frame to wait after having a traumatic brain injury. Being evaluated for driving usually depends on how the traumatic brain injury has affected a person and is determined on an individual basis. (Back to top)

What if I can’t use my right leg and/or arm? Or I can’t use my left arm?

If you have special needs for driving, special adaptations are available to make it possible to operate a motor vehicle. The best way to find out what kind of device you need is to have a driving evaluation where you drive an evaluation vehicle equipped with the most appropriate device(s) for your specific needs.

Devices include:

Loss of or limited use of right arm - a steering knob allows you to use one hand to turn the steering wheel. This device allows you to have complete control over the vehicle's steering. It’s designed to be quickly removed from the steering wheel to allow drivers who have the use of both hands to safely operate the vehicle, too.

Loss of or limited use of right leg - an accelerator can be located on the left side of the brake that allows safe operation of the accelerator and brake while using the left foot. A rigid cover over the original gas pedal is included. The left foot accelerator pedal can be removed easily with a quick release mechanism to allow another driver to use the vehicle's original gas pedal.

Loss of or limited use of the left arm - a steering knob is used to allow you to use one hand to turn the steering wheel. In addition to using the steering wheel, you must have access to the turn signals, windshield wipers, dimmer switch, and automatic speed control, which are usually on the left side of the steering wheel. These devices can be moved to the right side of the steering wheel using special crossover controls on the steering wheel or moved directly into the steering knob.

Whenever an adaptive device is required to continue driving, we recommend the following procedure to ensure safety:

  • Behind-the-wheel training using the adaptive device(s).
  • Road test completion with the Secretary of State to obtain approval to drive with an adaptive device on the vehicle.
  • Device(s) installation by a trained installer.

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