After an illness or injury, dealing with the loss of independence can be challenging. Returning to driving is often the last step on the road to independence, but getting behind the wheel again is a scary prospect. Magee Riverfront recently added a Driving Simulator to help patients practice driving skills in a safe environment before they get behind the wheel of a car or van on the road. What is a Driving Simulator? It’s a computerized system using three video monitors to create a virtual road, so the driver can safely practice important skills indoors, like following directions, visual scanning, hand-eye coordination, reaction time and speed, alternating attention, range of motion, and visual and cognitive processing.
The system simulates the view you have from an actual car, including your windshield, rear-view and side mirrors, and a wide-angle view of the “road.” Beginner training on the simulator includes basic skills such as turning on the ignition, adjusting the seat belt and mirrors, and learning dashboard controls. Beginners move on to mastering steering and maneuvering at slow speeds. For those who are already comfortable with the basics, you can practice backing up from a parking space, merging onto a highway, or negotiating intersections. There are several activities to try on the simulator, including driving in the city, country, or expressway. You can choose day or nighttime driving and also change the weather conditions. It even has a module to practice driving in traffic circles!
The system has a risk-awareness section that works with the driver on predicting behaviors of other drivers and defensive driving. This section also works on dividing and focusing attention. A report follows with reaction time and any errors made during the exercise. The system can be set up for foot controls or hand controls. The driving simulator can be used as a part of Occupational Therapy or can be used for practice as part of the Wellness Program at Magee Riverfront.
Practice sessions on the Driving Simulator are the first step in getting back on the road. They can be tremendously helpful in preparing patients for a road test at an accredited driving facility. A physician at an accredited driving facility must give a patient clearance to return to driving an automobile.
If you would like more information on the Driving Simulator, please contact Magee Riverfront at 215-218-3900.
The Driving Simulator was made possible by generous grant funding support from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.