Driving 2.0

The waiting room

I must say, I’ve been like a giddy teenager waiting for this appointment today, and it finally arrived. Today I got my driving assessment through Kettering Neuro Balance and Rehab. Today was all of the out of car tests, and using some hand controls in a driving simulator.

They deal with all sorts of patients, from spinal cord injuries and mobility affecting diseases and injuries like mine, to strokes, dementia and others. The assessment in thorough, and checks all aspects that one needs to be solid in to drive. They actually have three people there that do the assessments and the in-car trainings.

First, today, we talked about my driving goals, and how I want to get back to all aspects of driving. We did talk about my driving history, and when I started driving. We also discussed what kind of car I currently drive and what my final wheelchair will be.

Next was a vision screening, very similar to the one they give at the BMV. They have me read letters across the field of vision and then test my peripherals with flashing lights. Considering I just had that to renew my license in late February, I passed that with flying colors.

Then, there were a whole lot of cognitive assessments, what I surmise what they give to people who are getting tested for Alzheimer’s. I missed only one thing where I mixed up two numbers (out of 5) I had to give back to her backwards. Needless to say I passed that. After that was a whole bunch of pictures where I had to say where they were the same, different, find it in a smaller area or bigger area. I only missed one of those out of thirty, more than plenty to pass.

Then she brought out a sheet of standard road signage, and had me describe what they tell me, or what I should do when I see them. That was pretty easy, but I should study for the test again, because as my therapist told me I will have to recertify with hand controls, which means I have to take both the written and driving exams again to gain the hand controls endorsement on my license. It really is being like a teenager again.

The car simulator

Finally after that it was time to get in the car simulator. Basically it is a car frame, with a door, and some hand controls put in it. I had to show how I transfer in and out of the car from my wheelchair, and I passed that easily.

First thing we did in the simulator is try a couple of different hand controls. I liked one that has a horizontal handle like my cane, and all of them are push to break and pull to accelerate. Took a little getting used to, but once I settled on that configuration, I did well. The picture below shows what it will look like when everything is installed in my car.

What hand controls in a car looks like

The first test we did was a reaction time with the hand controls. They want your reaction time to be between .5 of a second and .7 of a second. They run the test three times to get an average to make sure you do it enough times. I averaged .42 for the entire set. I was only above .5 once, and that was an extremely quick one most of the time I was between .38 and .45. Once I got the motion of the hand control down it was quite easy.

Next I had to practice keeping the lane with the spinner knob. This was trickier, as the computer simulation was very sensitive, perhaps more sensitive than an actual car might be. I remarked to Doreen, my therapist, how sensitive it was and she agrees, it is actually more sensitive than most cars. I had to keep the car in the lane, and see where all the “E’s” popped up in my field of vision, then select whether it was on the left or right side. I got 100% of all of them except for the far left, which the pole of the car was in the way, and Doreen told me that a lot of people miss that one because of the pole.

I did well.

The final test was braking while identifying E’s, another reaction time test, while trying to keep the car in the lane. I tended to drift left, I remarked that this computer car needs an alignment. I didn’t crash the car though so once again I passed.

I passed the tests and simulator assessment so I get to move on to in-car. My first in-car session will be next week, and will concentrate on parking lot and maybe some neighborhood driving. I will be in a specially set up instructor car with the hand controls I chose. After that first in-car session I will probably have more training, and then finally I get to take the test to get my hand-controls endorsement to drive again.

This is a whole new world of therapy, so I am excited for it, they seem to think I will have my endorsements by August, but getting my car outfitted by August might be a tall order. We shall see. At least the ball is rolling so to speak and I hope to be on the road again soon.

More Later…

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