Rehab program helps drivers return to roads

November 5, 2010 3:15:03 PM PDT
Jim Madden, who suffers from ALS, took himself off the road years ago.

But he hopes to get back on the road through the driver rehab program at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.

"I had a practice drive this morning, and it is pretty easy to do," Madden told Action News. "It doesn't take too much training."

Madden's instructor is teaching him how to operate a hands-only driving console, and tests his vision skills.

Eventually, Madden will seek a PennDOT certification to drive a specially-equipped vehicle.

It lets drivers use their right hand used to steer, while the left hand is used to accelerate and brake.

"We perform evaluations and training to see if we can clarify if a person is safe to drive," said Thomas Kalina, a driver rehab supervisor.

Ever since an elderly woman got on I-95 and drove the wrong way, causing a number of accidents, questions have been raised about what, if any, rules apply here. Does anyone have a right to tell someone they are unable to drive, because they are just too old?

The answer is no.

But in Pennsylvania, a person's physician is required to report anyone above the age of 15 who may not be fit to drive anymore. A police officer can red-flag someone in an accident and, PennDOT has a random screening process.

"We make every effort to help them become a driver, become a safe driver," Kalina said. "Sometimes we have to be the bearer of bad news."

Despite any hard feelings, the driving instructor says everyone's goal should be to one day outlive our ability to drive.


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