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Suggestions for rehab specialists who become involved in the provision of low vision driver education training and assessment services.


By Chuck Huss, C.O.M.S.

Please find listed below some suggestions that you may want to use or follow when working with typical new low vision driver candidates who enroll in your program of formalized low vision driver education training and assessment.

1) Determine student's present level of pre-driver readiness and awareness skills (see copy enclosed).

2) If you discover deficits in areas as indicated above, address these issues one at a time via using the professional services of a rehabilitation specialist (O&M Specialist, O.T.R., C.D.R.S, etc.) with experience in formalized low vision driver education training and assessment practices.

3) Though some may disagree, we choose to introduce basic defensive driving skills including but not limited to eye lead, head and eye scanning , 3-4 second following distance, mirror usage etc. to new students on entrance to our formalized program of low vision driver education training; prior to introducing and reinforcing the use of their prescription BiOptic telescopic lens system.(BTLS).

In addition we introduce and reinforce the concept of critical object/condition awareness, starting with the larger roadway characteristics (intersections, fixed hazards …. for ex. dips in the road, blind curves, bushes, hillsides, etc within or adjacent to a roadway), traffic control devices (pavement markings) and road users (buses and trucks) before going to smaller in size critical objects/conditions in all 3 areas.

The rationale behind the latter approach is that, especially for those who never expected to drive, the totally new driver candidate may not be aware of the dynamics of the driving task.. IF STUDENTS DO NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THE BIG PICTURE OF THE DRIVING SCENE, THEY WILL EXPERIENCE CONSIDERABLE DIFFICULTY IN FINDING DETAIL WITHIN THE BIG PICTURE WITH OR WITHOUT THE BTLS !!!

In many cases where students fail to illustrate big picture awareness , the student is encouraged to return home and reinforce observing (for at least the next 6-12 months in most cases) what other drivers and other road users are doing to drive safely.

4) Starting week No. 2 of training, we then introduce the proper and appropriate use of their prescription BiOptic telescopic lens system to the student, including adequate coverage of the optical and non-optical considerations one must be apprised of when utilizing such devices under dynamic conditions (see enclosed complimentary copy of my presentation made at the EYE AND THE AUTO and attachments).

As indicated the latter is first conducted on foot outside (and inside if further reinforcement is needed) under controlled conditions; then reinforced in a passenger in car mode (over 20-25 different routes of travel, covering all aspects of Doron Corporation's S.I.P.D.E. System (Search, Identify, Predict, Decide, and Execute); and then integrated into the actual driving task as proficiency in the use of the BTLS is attained by the student.

Please note, students are asked to wear their BTLS starting day 1 of our concurrent training program (receiving classroom, passenger-in-car and behind-the-wheel instruction all in the same day, 5 days a week, by staff employed at the same facility) even before BTLS instruction is provided ….to enable them to become accustomed to wearing the latter. Integration of BLTS usage into the driving task is kept selective and minimal to begin with; then encouraged more often as needed as their driving skills develop and mature.

5) When introducing the detection and identification of critical objects during the passenger-in-cart phase, we encourage training instructors to isolate out and reinforce the location and awareness of one kind of object/condition at a time, larger type of objects/forms … then smaller ones (for ex….. " as soon as you can first detect a t-shaped intersection on the right or left side of our travel path, tell me so " or " anytime another road user (on two feet or four feet, 2 wheels or 4 wheels) approaches, enters or crosses our intended path of travel , please tell me '' or " as we approach each intersection tell me as soon as you can: if we have to stop, the shape of the intersection, how many stop signs there are, and when it is safe to proceed '', etc.).

Then integrate the latter individual SIPDE hazard perception skills into the big picture ….. reinforcing all of the latter together.

6) We encourage that non-rated driving performances, with a second driver evaluator positioned in the left rear seat, do not take place until the end of week 2 … or when the student and primary driver educator have established rapport and confidence in one another.

7) Weeks 3 & 4 …once the basics are down, then introduce the concepts of collision traps, separation and compromise principles, joining and leaving traffic formations, changing lanes, principles of passing, expressway dynamics etc. (copies of curriculum guide and audio-visual training lists are available upon request).

Note, a few years ago, the West Virginia Rehabilitation Center purchased 10 new driver simulators and updated its audio-visual library via the acquisition of Doron Corporation's S.I.P.D.E. laser disc video series and appropriate video projection equipment to improve its classroom phase of driver education training.

What a difference the latter makes when an instructor wants to reinforce a point of emphasis with low vision students via still framing driving scenes or advancing/ reversing the still frame one frame at a time without distortion or fear of burning a hole in film as was the case with older 16 mm films.

8) Week 5 …. here we begin to transition from what we call spoon-fed instruction to that which emphasizes more independent decision-making type of driver training exercises and rated on-road driver assessments ….for ex.. give the student route instructions like …." at the 2nd traffic light turn left ''.

See enclosed articles which provide an overview of our standardized driver performance measurement (DPM) test route which Fred Vanosdall, Traffic Safety Specialist, Michigan State University, now retired, set up and trained several of us in WV to incorporate into our training program..

The latter outcomes serve as an ongoing assessment of each student's developing driving skills and advises student and instructors what areas need to be emphasized during the remaining weeks of training (weeks 5-8), prior to any consideration of application for driver licensure.

In closing, the above document is intended to provide readers with a preview of what we have refined at the West Virginia Rehabilitation Center over the years for rehabilitation specialists who become involved in the provision of formalized low vision driver education training and assessment services.

If additional information is needed, please feel free to call or write:

Charles P. Huss, C.O.M.S. Coordinator, Low Vision Driver Services

West Virginia Rehabilitation Center P.O. Box 1004 Barron Drive Institute, WV 25112 TEL: 304-766-4803 FAX: 304-766-4816  Charles P. Huss is an Academy Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist with 25 years of teaching experience with visually impaired individuals [K-Geriatrics].



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