Are you a brain damaged driver? Have you ever thought a fellow driver must be brain damaged? A motorcycle crash turned me into a brain damaged driver. NO BIG DEAL!
Decades later, as I researched studies posted on the internet, I discovered that people with TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury, are no more likely to experience crashes or citations than the healthy control groups they were compared with (Schultheis et al., 2002). Additional research also indicates that individuals with TBI who complete a comprehensive driving evaluation reintegrate into the driving community without increased risk for accident (Rapport et al., 2006; Schultheis et al., 2002).
Because of the limiting affects of most TBIs in general, being able to get along with folks is crucial. A very good reason getting along with people is especially important for brain damaged folks is outlined in a 2006 study. That study describes the perceptions of close relatives concerning a TBI survivor’s ability to drive as the strongest predictor of whether or not that person will return to driving. The inter-family relationships even surpass neuro-psychological test results as reliable indicators of future driving likelihood.
Although not speaking specifically of TBI folks, what Helen Keller said sums up the idea that how much we are able to do and how well we are able to do it will be especially impacted by the health of our personal relationships. She said “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Families and Caregivers of Potential TBI Drivers
Family members and other caregivers are in a position to have the clearest insight into the physical, cognitive, and behavioral impact of brain injury. Whether it’s considered a factor or not, if a brain injured person is a source of irritation and negativity, only a naive person would fail to realize that this is a factor in determining how willing people are to help them grow. And how willing people are to help you grow plays a big part in how much growing a person with TBI actually does. Not only for people with brain damage, but especially for people with brain damage.
For example: Teaming up with JD Wilson, my 9th grade music teacher, my dad and Wilson took turns taking me out in Wilson’s, old primer gray Buick to practice driving on back roads and in a large parking lot before I took my actual driving test. The support was crucial to helping me not feel like a victim. They gave me the opportunity to be personally accountable for my own results, not just being told I couldn’t do it. This way, I would know that if I didn’t pass the test and get my license back, it was because I really couldn’t drive again and not because somebody decided I couldn’t drive again. This is just one illustration of why it is key for people with TBI to have healthy relationships. To have healthy relationships, most often we have to have a good attitude that attracts people into our lives that believe in us.
A brochure written by the Brain Injury Association of America for people with brain damage and their family, caretakers and friends quotes an article that says “the perceptions of close relatives about an individual’s fitness to drive were the strongest predictors of whether or not a person with brain injury would return to driving–even surpassing neuro psychological test results.”
Family Members and Driver Rehabilitation
Often, family members are in a tough position when the subject of driving arises. If the person receives inpatient rehabilitation, be sure to ask if there is a reasonable expectation that recovery will support driving at some future date. Ask if you should schedule a driving evaluation and where to obtain such a referral. The answers to your questions will help prepare you to address the issue as recovery continues. Another big factor is whether or not family members are patient and willing to invest the time involved to enable the person to drive again. Like in many other areas of their life, accepting certain limitations can actually open doors a TBI may otherwise shut.
Error can occur in either direction. Because driving is an important part of a person’s self perception and their ability to maintain an independent lifestyle. The person with brain injury may assume that he can return to driving once he recovers physically…well-meaning families members may support this assumption–but it may not be the case. Since it may be very difficult for families to inform their loved ones that they are not permitted to drive, they may want to leave the discussion up to the medical team.
With time and further recovery, the individual often gains greater insight into his abilities and limitations, and may come to agree that driving like they once did is not a reasonable expectation.
Conclusions concerning Driver Rehabilitation
The course of recovery and driver rehabilitation after a head injury can be very unpredictable. It is often difficult to plan for the future and remain realistic about just how much independence a person can regain. If and when a person may safely return to driving is one of those unknowns that should be addressed early in recovery. But remember that even medical teams of experienced professionals can err.
For example, I was told by a very experienced medical team in the largest trauma care hospital in NW United States that I would never drive again, ever. However, I had resources they didn’t know about, a loving and patient family who believed in the power of prayer and who gave me hours and hours of practice time. Because of those two things, I have driven for over 30 years without killing or permanently injuring a single person. Seriously, I have never had to submit a claim for personal injury. We don’t need to discuss the time I scrapped the side of my car because I was in too big a hurry.
As insurance rates among people under 25 years old attest, more than just whether someone has a TBI needs to be considered when calculating their likelihood of being ticketed or having an accident. Every bit as important a consideration as my TBI is my willingness to remember my limitations and be a consistently careful driver. Personally, maturing and developing my patience, are the two biggest reasons I haven’t had a moving violation in over 10 years and why today I get preferred insurance rates.
I can’t give my maturity level full credit for my driving success, however. A big part of the reason I fit into the flow of traffic is because I live in a part of the country where many folks drive like they’re brain damaged.
Al Foxx is an Inspirational Humorist and Keynote Speaker.
Contact him for your next event, he will bring humor and inspiration or diversity training to your audience.