Tag Archives: driving

TLC Success Story: Tony Strueby

Since opening in 1982, the Transitional Learning Center has enjoyed many successes with our patients.  Tony Strueby is one of those success stories.   Tony’s traumatic brain injury caused him to suffer significant deficits in speech and mobility which impacted many areas of his life.  With the help of the TLC staff, Tony was able to improve and adapt.  He has done so well that he has returned to working and driving.  Read more about Tony’s journey in this linked story from the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS):
http://www.dars.state.tx.us/news/stories/drs_tony.shtml

 
For those unfamiliar with DARS, it is a Texas state agency which provides funding for treatment and medical devices for Texas residents who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.  DARS has enabled many of our patients to receive treatment who would not otherwise have been able to do so due to a lack of insurance or having insurance that would not fund treatment.  As receiving treatment is vital for post-injury improvement, please click on the link below to see if you or a loved one would qualify for services through DARS:

http://www.dars.state.tx.us/drs/crs.shtml

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org

 

Can I Drive Yet?

One of the most common questions a patient will ask the Transitional Learning Center staff is when that patient will be able to resume driving.  This is an understandable concern as most Americans use their cars as their primary means of travel.  Additionally, a car is often viewed as a symbol of freedom and independence and not being able to drive is often felt as an acute personal loss.

Of all the activities of daily living, driving is one of the most complex and as such is uniquely susceptible to being effected adversely by deficits left in the wake of a brain injury.  Driving requires such skills as good vision to be able to adequately see traffic and other surroundings, solid motor coordination to operate the vehicle safely, strong attention skills to enable sufficient observation and anticipation of traffic and excellent reasoning skills to make safe decisions.  It requires strong memory skills in order to recall new directions as given and strong processing skills to analyze all of the various forms of information the driver receives in the course of a trip.

If all this were not difficult enough, driving requires all of these activities to be done while travelling at incredibly high rates of speed.  For instance, 60 miles per hour (a pretty typical speed limit for highways) is the equivalent of 88 feet per second!  Brain injury deficits are typically magnified by the speed with which a person is trying to do a given task, so the chance of making an error when driving is much greater than the chance of error while walking.  Moreover, making a mistake in a vehicle can be a much bigger problem because a  vehicle can weigh from between around 3000 pounds for a small compact car  to the neighborhood of 12,000 pounds for a larger truck.  If you are driving a midsize sedan at the highway speed limit, you are driving a vehicle weighing approximately 5500 pounds at 88 feet per second.  Any accident may be a major accident.

One of the statements we often hear from patients when discussing driving is, “But I haven’t forgotten how to drive.”  This may well be the case.  Unfortunately, this fact does little to lessen the gravity of the central issue at question.  Remembering or not remembering how to drive is not the problem.  Most patients in the post-acute stage of traumatic brain injury retain their pre-injury memories for how to engage in a number of activities, particularly those activities which have been done repeatedly like driving.   The issue is not whether or not a patient remembers how to drive, but to what extent that patient can safely drive today in spite of any deficits that may have been incurred due to his or her injury.

It is recommended that any person who has suffered a serious brain injury be evaluated by a driving rehabilitation professional prior to resuming driving.  Some brain injury survivors are able to return to driving but many cannot.  A professional evaluation will assess a patient’s driving skills to ensure both the safety of the survivor and of the public.  They also can and do recommend devices that may compensate for deficits.

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org

Helmet Safety

As a therapist at a post-acute brain injury treatment facility, I often find myself cringing when driving down the highway.  I see so many motorcyclists without helmets and it brings to mind the many patients at our facility who were injured in motorcycle accidents and were not wearing helmets at the time of their injury.  Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is just a bad idea.

According to a 2009 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets were 41% effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries in single vehicle accidents and 25% effective in multi-vehicle accidents.

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811208.pdf

Similarly, a study from Johns Hopkins University found a 65% reduction in brain injuries  resulting from motorcycle accidents when riders wore helmets.

http://archive.gazette.jhu.edu/2011/02/28/motorcycle-helmet-myth-debunked-use-decreases-cervical-spine-injury/

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that motorcyclists without helmets were almost two and a half times more likely to receive brain injuries than those with helmets.

http://www.chsra.wisc.edu/codes/special-cost/motorcycle-helmet-use-and-crash-outcomes-2010.pdf

The numbers do not lie.  Motorcycle helmets truly do help prevent brain injuries.

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org