Driving is an activity that requires multiple body functions to work together properly. For safe driving, the driver needs to ensure that their visual, physical, and cognitive systems are working appropriately. As the body changes with medical diagnoses, events and/or age, it is the responsibility of the driver to monitor how physical and cognitive changes may impact safety on the road.
A driving evaluation is a great way to help individuals and families determine overall safety for driving and/or safety for returning to the road after illness.
How does the driver evaluation program work?
An Emerson occupational therapist/driver rehabilitation specialist (OT-CDRS) is on-site to provide comprehensive driver assessment in a one to two-part evaluation:
Part 1: In-Clinic Evaluation:
A two-hour, in-clinic evaluation of basic visual, physical (strength, coordination, sensation), and cognitive (thinking skills) abilities to drive. The purpose of this evaluation is to assess “fitness to drive” and may result in a pass/fail result. If you pass, you may move onto Part 2 (below). If you fail, we may recommend that you participate in therapy/re-evaluation at a later date OR if progress is unlikely, we may recommend retirement from driving. Part 1 is mandatory to move to the on-road evaluation. The cost of the clinical assessment is $350 payable to Emerson Hospital.
Part 2: On-Road Evaluation:
If you pass Part 1, you will be permitted to participate in an on-road evaluation with the driving instructor. This typically happens 1 week after your in-clinic evaluation. In the driving instructor’s vehicle, you will be picked up at your home and assessed for safety as you drive on the roads in your area. The driving instructor will make recommendations that may include a return to driving with or without added restrictions, driver rehabilitation, or a retirement from driving. Emerson is pleased to partner with the Central Mass Safety Council (CMSC), a driving school that permits increased availability of on-road services. The cost of the on-road assessment via CMSC is $299 + $80/hr travel fee. If you will be driving with adaptive equipment, the base fee is $349.
Our trained team of therapists have a cohesive goal of increasing an individual’s safety and independence. We can help with determining the safest decision in regard to driving and hope to support individuals and families with options and resources in transportation.
How do I get started?
- Speak with your doctor. The doctor must send an order for an “OT Driving Evaluation” faxed to Emerson Hospital at (978) 287-8177.
- Call the Keys to Independence Driving Program to make an appointment. You will be asked to provide demographic/intake information as well as credit card information for an initial deposit of $150. You can call (978) 287-8244; please allow 7-10 business days for a call back. For a quick questions, you can also email DrivingProgram@emersonhosp.org .
** Cancellation/no-show policy: The deposit amount is non-refundable if you cancel less than 1 week before your appointment. If you wish to reschedule, the fee must be paid again. If you cancel/reschedule with more than 1 weeks’ notice, you will not be charged.
Frequently asked questions
- What clients do you typically serve? We see a range of clients with differing needs. Most common examples include:
- Elderly individuals or their family members looking to evaluate safety
- Patients recommended by their physician with diagnoses like stroke, Parkinson’s, dementia or after neuropsychological testing
- Individuals in need of adaptive equipment for driving such as a spinner knob, a left-foot accelerator, or hand controls
- Individuals with suspended licenses who were involved in motor vehicle accidents
- Younger clients (16+) with developmental/learning differences determining readiness to drive
- How many people pass? Because of the diversity in range of clients, it is difficult to provide a pass/fail rate. We strive to provide objective evaluations to decide the safest outcome for our clients.
- Where are you located? The in-clinic evaluation (Part 1) is located at 310 Baker Avenue, Concord, MA. Enter through the long, covered walkway labelled “Emerson Health.” If you are permitted to participate in the on-road evaluation (Part 2), the driving instructor will come to your home.
- What do I need for the evaluation? It is required that someone drive you to and from your in-clinic evaluation. One family member, caregiver, or support person is welcomed in the evaluation room. Please bring your license, eye glasses and any assistive devices you use for mobility.
- Does insurance cover the cost? Unfortunately, no. However, we intermittently have grants for some populations. For example, sometimes we are able to provide discounted rates to clients with Parkinson’s disease through grants from various donors. Ask when you call if these options are still available.
- What happens if I fail—do you report to RMV? If you fail and progress is unlikely in your future/we recommend driver retirement, we do report to the RMV. This is to ensure that you and the other people on the road are held to a safe and responsible standard. We will provide you with a License Surrender Affidavit for Medical Reasons form to mail into the RMV; they will mail you a MA ID card within 10 business days. The occupational therapist will also review methods of alternative transportation to help support your independence.
- What if my license is suspended? Please first call the RMV Medical Affairs department at (857) 368- 8020 to gain information on what exactly is required to reinstate your license. Sometimes they require your physician to fill out a medical evaluation form. Other times, the RMV may require a meeting with a Hearing Officer and for you to take a competency exam. In this case, you will need an Instructional Learner’s Permit for which our driving instructor can provide you with a Letter of Sponsorship to participate in the on-road evaluation with CMSC. This process will require both Part 1 and 2 of Emerson’s evaluation and likely additional lessons with the driving school. This can take 3-6 months in total to reinstate the license if appropriate.
- What is the relationship between this evaluation and my hearing with the RMV? Emerson is one of only a few clinical driver assessment programs in MA. When an RMV hearing officer wants a prospective driver to be evaluated, our program is on that list. Our therapists are not RMV employees and we do not communicate directly with the RMV except to request a learner’s permit for a driver with a suspended license or to report a driver who is at risk.
- What happens if I still decide to drive after I was recommended not to? Please consider the safety of yourself and the others around you. Even if you have always been an excellent driver, age and medical diagnoses can have an impact on your ability to drive safely, even if you are not readily aware of a change in your function. After the clinical evaluation, our recommendation will be a part of your medical record. The medical record is a legal document which may be subpoenaed in a court of law. If your license is suspended and you are stopped by the police, you may be subject to financial penalty and possible incarceration.