Driving and Hydrocephalus


Driving is often seen as a rite of passage into adulthood. For many, it symbolizes independence and self-control. For the most part, hydrocephalus does not limit your ability to drive. However, it’s not uncommon for individuals with hydrocephalus to experience challenges with depth perception, processing speed, reaction timing, coordination, short-term memory, vision, orientation, and/or navigational issues. Driving is a privilege and comes with many responsibilities. If you or a loved one have cognitive or physical impairments, the decision to move forward and obtain a license should not be taken lightly.

Can I Drive?

Note that there are no laws against driving with hydrocephalus or normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). However, safety is key. If you or others are concerned about your ability to drive, consider getting a professional driving assessment. A professional driving assessment is a comprehensive driving evaluation performed by a qualified individual. Typically, the driving evaluator is an occupational therapist with advanced or specialized training. The assessment is designed to:

  • Evaluate your cognitive, visual, and motor skills
  • Assess whether you have the skills and abilities to drive safely
  • Pinpoint any challenges you may be experiencing
  • Recommend corrections (if any) that are needed
  • Indicate whether you would benefit from extra training or need special adaptive vehicle equipment
  • Reveal if you are no longer safe to operate a motor vehicle

Resources for Driving Assessments

To find a professional driving evaluation near you, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) provides a nationwide database of driving programs and specialists. You can also contact the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. Your local hospital may be a good source for locating:

  • Occupational therapy driver rehabilitation specialists
  • Programs sponsored by your county or city office on aging
  • The Veterans Administration and other rehabilitation facilities
  • Your state’s bureau, Department of Motor Vehicles, or Motor Vehicle Administration, which may have special programs or licensing options.

What Do I Do If I Cannot Drive?

The inability to drive may cause anxiety, sadness, and a sense of losing your independence. This is certainly not an easy situation, and losing the ability to drive can disrupt your life. However, we want you to know that many individuals living with hydrocephalus and other chronic conditions still go on to lead meaningful, independent lives. With today’s technology, there are various options and strategies available to help you:

  • Understand your public transportation options – buses, subways, and trains.
  • Research “paratransit” services for people who cannot use typical public transportation or find that buses or trains are unavailable.
  • Call 2-1-1 (in available locations), your town hall, council on aging, or senior citizen groups. These resources often have vans that can transport passengers to appointments or stores for errands.
  • Check with your local churches, community groups, the Red Cross, or other nonprofit organizations and social service agencies in your area. These groups typically have resources or offer a list of volunteers to help with transportation.
  • Contact your state Office of Disability Services or the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center for transportation programs and providers.
  • Create a Lyft, Uber, or other car service account.
  • Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“I never had to stop driving even when my normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) was at its worst, but I found I really needed my GPS – even for short trips where I used to know the route. I also found that I couldn’t listen to books while driving. That minimal amount of multi-processing became too difficult. The only time I couldn’t drive was the nine days between my shunt surgery and being cleared by my neurosurgeon.”
-Trish Bogucki


“It has always taken me longer to learn anything that needs coordination such as walking or swimming. The same was true for driving. I passed the test on the first try, but it took me almost a year to be ready to take it. Spatially, I am not a good parallel parker and do not like switching lanes when it is dark or raining.”
-Amy Spencer


“I have a learning disability due to having hydrocephalus, I also struggle with testing anxiety. I struggled to get my license because of both obstacles. I didn’t receive any special accommodations when taking the written or behind-the-wheel test. in hindsight, maybe that’s a good thing as I learned from my mistakes and had to work on controlling my anxiety while driving for the test. Long story short, I earned my driver’s license later than the average person does; I was 25 when I got it.”
-Toni Travline 

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