The baby boomer generation is enter
ing their retirement years and fortunately living longer and staying active more than any previous generation. This includes putting in more miles behind the wheel. By the year 2030, one of every five drivers in America will be 65 years of age or older. Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are far more harmful for older adults than for all other age groups. Common age-related changes and health concerns that impact functional abilities paired with medical conditions can make driving difficult. This does not mean however that age alone makes a
driver unsafe! There is no set age when driving becomes a concern. Changes in functional ability can happen at any age, or as a result of many medical conditions. Therefore, it is important to recognize changes in an individual’s driving behaviors or abilities. At The Neuro Hub we provide a comprehensive evaluation to assess if an aging driver is still safe to drive.
What are some warning signs that can help you identify that your loved one may be at risk of challenges behind the wheel? Look out for things such as:
Getting lost in familiar areas or becoming disoriented
Sensory impairments such as decreased vision, hearing, or sensation in the hands or feet
Medication use that might come with drowsiness or dizziness as a side effect
Delayed responses to unexpected situations or slowed reaction times
Beginning to demonstrate trouble handling things at home, such as meal prepping, or other multi-step tasks
Other red flags include recent traffic violations, motor vehicle accidents and self-reported situational avoidance, such as limiting driving.
So, you’ve identified one or more risk factors…what should you do?
Consider taking your parents to be evaluated by their healthcare provider. Ask the doctor to determine if a fitness to drive evaluation could help your parent. These are typically performed by occupational therapists with additi
onal training as a driver rehabilitation specialist (DRS). These professionals are trained to evaluate older drivers for the following issues:
Muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion
Coordination and reaction time
Judgment and decision-making skills
Ability to drive with specialized, adaptive devices
After a comprehensive driver evaluation is performed (consisting of both a clinical portion and if deemed appropriate, an on-road assessment), the specialist may recommend ways for the client to drive more safely. Suggestions may include special equipment, training, or driving strategies to compensate for any medical changes. The goal of the service is to assist the individual to drive safely, as much and for as long as possible. If driving retirement is recommended the DRS can help a driver and their family to develop a plan to transition from driving and use other options for travel to important destinations.
Why is it important to be assessed?
Driving is one of the greatest symbols of independence and freedom and therefore very difficult to give up. While driving may feel automatic to those of us who have been at it for decades, it’s actually a complex task that demands many physical and mental components. Anything your aging parents can do to preserve their vision, hearing, and mobility will help them stay safer on the roads. If you are in Central Florida and are concerned about a friend or family member, don’t hesitate to reach out to our certified driver rehab specialists at
In addition, there are several online resources including self-assessment or self-screening tools. These tools alone cannot determine whether an individual is a safe driver, but it can provide you with important information to discuss with family, friends, and your health care provider. It can also identify when a more formal assessment of driving skills may be needed. Several organizations offer free self- assessment guides that you can use to review your own driving performance, including:
AAA Foundation’s Drivers 65 Plus: Check Your Performance features a self-rating tool to help you examine your ability to drive safely. It presents 15 statements about driving situations and gives suggestions based on the driver’s answers. Visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.
AAA Foundation’s Roadwise Review is a confidential, online self-assessment screening tool that measures mental and physical abilities important for safe driving. It examines vision, reaction time, and directs users to more information related to driving safety. Visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.