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A Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) is a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (DRS) with additional training and certification. A DRS generally has a health professional degree with additional training specific to driver evaluation and rehabilitation. CDRS professionals are those DRS's that have successfully passed a certification examination and regularly complete education in the field to maintain their credentials. CDRS and DRS both offer specific assessment and instruction skills, experience, and understanding when it comes to those with physical, cognitive, and visual challenges. Currently, there are about 360 active CDRS in the U.S. and Canada.      

       Why are those trained to be a CDRS and DRS so important to making the roads safer for drivers with disabilities, their passengers, and other road users? While many advances have been made in adaptive driving equipment and vehicle technology, driving a motor vehicle is a complex task that involves more than the physical ability to operate controls. Adequate vision, integrated reflexes, and appropriate cognitive skills are required to process what one sees and how one reacts, in a manner quick enough to ensure safe, efficient decisions behind the wheel.

Driver training for a person with a disability is frequently provided after a thorough driver evaluation, and should ideally be conducted by a CDRS or DRS. A driver evaluation generally consists of a clinical assessment and a behind-the-wheel assessment. The evaluation process generally includes tests of physical function, vision, perception, attention, motor function, and reaction time, in addition to actual driving performance tests. Based on the evaluation results, the CDRS or DRS will determine if any adaptive driving equipment is needed, whether the individual has the ability to drive independently or at all, and whether they require driver rehabilitation or training. Assessment can average three to eight hours, and training is customized to the unique needs of each individual. Some of the recommended vehicle adaptations could include lifts; ramps; custom seating; steering devices, such as spinner knobs and other specially-designed handles for the steering wheel; hand controls; foot pedal extensions; special mirrors; extenders and extensions for dash controls; and other adaptive tools.


Referrals to a driver rehabilitation program or CDRS for those with disabilities can be made by physicians, specialists, eye doctors, occupational therapists, driving schools, gerontologists, parents or spouses, the individuals themselves, and other sources. A “disability” is classified as a condition impeding completion of daily tasks using traditional methods. Disability types include: physical impairments affecting movement, such as amputation, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke; sensory impairments, such as poor vision or hearing loss/deafness; cognitive impairments, such as dementia, autism, Down syndrome, and traumatic brain injury; and psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.

Types of programs

There are different types of driving programs to meet the various needs of the consumer.  To assist the consumer and referral sources in ensuring that  the “right services for the right people at the right time” are available, a Spectrum of Driver Services and Driver Rehabilitation Program Services is available. The spectrum document was a collaborative effort with ADED and in association with the AOTA® / NHTSA (American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. / National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Pathways Project.  The document was included in an article in a special issue of  the journal, Occupational Therapy in Health Care.  The featured article Driver rehabilitation programs: defining program models, services, and expertise was authored by Amy Lane, OTR/L, CDRS, Elizabeth Green, OTR/L, CDRS, CAE, Dr. Anne Dickerson, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Elin Schold Davis, OTR/L, CDRS, Beth Rolland, OTR/L, CDRS, and Janet T. Stohler, OTR/L, CDRS, CDI


The Spectrum of Driver Services and Driver Rehabilitation Program Services is intended for use by medically at-risk drivers, persons with disabilities, licensed driving instructors, safe driving groups, health care professionals, occupational therapists, driver rehabilitation specialists, and Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (CDRS).  The purpose of this document is to define the common language and different program models used in a wide range of driving programs, covering everything from driving school for healthy drivers to driver rehabilitation programs for those medically at-risk individuals with conditions that may affect driving performance or require adaptive driving aids or vehicle modifications. This document helps identify where different driver programs fit in the spectrum. The  Spectrum of Driver Services and Driver Rehabilitation Program Services  also assists consumers and stakeholders in understanding the differences of driver services that are available and where they should go for these services.  The document format allows for a quick reference to each program type, who typically provides the service, the expected knowledge of the provider, and what services the program should be offering.


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