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DriveSafe Drive Aware: Customer story

Eastern Health Occupational Therapist uses DriveSafe DriveAware as the missing link for assessing fitness to drive.

Amy Harry, Occupational Therapist (OT) for Eastern Health, and part of the Angliss Community Rehabilitation Program, works in the public health system. Her job is sometimes hindered by complications regarding the time and cost of on-road assessment referrals.

For many clients, a driving license is a ticket to the outside world and a symbol of freedom. When someone has driven their entire lives, it’s understandable why stopping driving is difficult for all involved.

DriveSafe DriveAware (DSDA), an off-road driving assessment tool, is changing not only Amy’s day-to-day role but also the lives of the people under her care.

The road to off-road assessment

DSDA is an objective, evidence-based measure of cognitive fitness to drive, administered off the road and via an app. It accurately predicts the driving ability of elderly or cognitively impaired patients by prompting them to use their safety and judgement, and to make decisions.

The tool is broken down into three subtests: DriveSafe, which involves identifying and recalling hazards at various intersections; DriveAware, which measures self-rating and everyday driving, against actual test performance and the clinician’s rating; and Intersection Rules, an optional subtest to test for the client’s knowledge of ‘right of way’ at intersections.

"DSDA gives us a clearer indication of where the client is at in terms of readiness for a driving assessment, so we can advise them not to attempt it until they are likely to pass."

- Amy Harry, Occupational Therapist. Eastern Health.

The test takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and is used by health professionals to determine a patient’s readiness to undergo an on-road driving assessment.

There are many reasons to use the test. The most common is cognitive impairment, through old age or injury. For these clients, driving becomes a task that is not only difficult but one that could result in danger for themselves and others on the road.

Amy has been using DSDA for the past three years and says it’s been beneficial for each of the approximately six clients that she’s used it with.

Preparation to pass an on-road driving assessment

For Amy, she finds that a lot of her clients, especially those with any sort of cognitive impairment post-stroke, don’t really understand what a complex task driving is.

“The app helps them to understand at least some of the complexities of driving – in particular, their attention to their surroundings. I have had a lot of clients report that it was ‘harder than they thought it would be’ to complete the app and this has helped them to build insight into the need for a driving assessment prior to returning to driving,” she said.

Amy said that there was one story in particular that stood out when it comes to demonstrating the tangible value of DSDA.

“Probably the most significant story I can think of is a lady who had a stroke and a severe communication impairment following this. She had her licence suspended by the acute hospital and was significantly lacking confidence in her ability to drive even though she didn’t really have deficits that should prevent her from being able to do so. She didn’t have the confidence to even pursue an on-road driving assessment due to the communication barrier,” she said.

“We did the DSDA app twice with her as a confidence-building tool which worked really well. She did eventually have an on-road assessment and passed with flying colours (as we expected) and has now returned to driving as she did prior to her stroke.”

"It [DSDA] also helps with insight building into the complexity of driving and the cognitive demands, as clients often take for granted that ‘they can drive’. At times, it can also give confidence to clients who are unsure of whether they will pass their test."

- Amy Harry, Occupational Therapist. Eastern Health.

A long road to progress

Before DSDA, Amy had to rely on other referrals or non-standardised methods for judging whether a client needed or was ready for an on-road driving assessment.

Referrals to neuropsychology and other specialists left clients with hefty waiting times and there was no way of really simulating the cognitive components of driving, without entering the road.

“Prior to DSDA, if we had a client who we were unsure as to whether they would need a driving assessment, we would refer them to our neuropsychologist and our rehab medicine consultant who would make that decision. Clients would wait up to two months for both of these appointments,” she said.

According to Amy, although that might sound terrible, other services are not as lucky as hers is and don’t have a neuropsychologist on board. Those services would have to make referrals to private services, which could be very costly for the client.

“With the app, we still make the same referrals, however as the neuropsychologist and consultant often do not have to do such an in-depth assessment, they are able to see the client sooner which makes for shorter waiting times,” she said.

Clarity via an app

Amy said that she mainly uses DSDA for clients who have a goal of returning to driving but there are some questions about their cognitive ability to do so.

“I have had numerous clients go on to pass a driving test after having completed the DSDA app,“ she said.

With its versatility, accuracy and flexibility, DSDA could be the missing link for health professionals, patients and their families when confronting fitness to drive.

Evaluating an elderly person’s ability to drive, and having accurate data and information to corroborate that evaluation, is difficult. DSDA provides a quick, cost-effective precursor to costly and slow on-road assessments at great benefit to clients.

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