According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 70 and older population is expected to reach 53 million by 2030. Although mature drivers are more experienced, physical and cognitive decline as well as certain medications can put drivers more at risk for crashes.
Evaluating driving ability early and understanding mind and body changes can provide older drivers with the tools necessary to drive safer for longer. Visit AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to learn more.
Every time you get behind the wheel of a car, you must decide how to react to other vehicles and drivers, traffic signs and signals, highway conditions and your vehicle’s performance – and often take quick action. Would you like to know your driving performance?
Drivers 65 Plus is a brochure that features a 15-question self-rating driving assessment exercise designed to help you examine your driving performance. After answering the questions, follow the instructions to calculate your score and get information about your driving performance.
In order to continue being a safe driver through the years, it is important to have your driving assessed regularly with a professional driving assessment.
There are two categories of driving assessments:
Occupational Therapist Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (OT-DRSs) plan, develop, coordinate, and implement driving services for people with disabilities or have one or more medical conditions that affect driving.
Clinical driving assessments are best if you have a broad spectrum of physical and cognitive disabilities including dementia, stroke, arthritis, low vision, learning disabilities, limb amputations, neuromuscular disorders, spinal cord injuries, mental health problems, cardiovascular diseases and other causes of functional deficits.
Components of a clinical driving assessment:
Click here to access The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) nationwide database of driving programs and specialists.
Source: AOTA and the Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers
Driving skills evaluators (DSEs) conduct evaluations to help you identify any weaknesses in driving skills and determine if supplemental training can further reduce driving risk.
Evaluations are best if you are concerned your driving skills may have diminished; were recommended to take a driving skills evaluation by a physician, occupational therapist or family member; or may benefit from supplemental in-car training.
Components of a driving skills evaluation
Driving skills evaluation does not identify underlying medically related causes of any reduced driving abilities. It’s intended to be a snapshot of your abilities at a particular point in time. No training is conducted during a driving skills evaluation. Additional training is available from DSEs if desired.
To get a driving skills evaluation, click here for more information regarding availability in your state.
Vision changes due to aging may be so gradual that they become unnoticed over time.
As you age, reflexes can slow and you may not be able to react to situations as quickly as you could in the past. Stiff joints and/or weak muscles can also decrease reaction time when driving.
Here are some tips to stay safe on the road:
Medical conditions that can effect older drivers are dementia, arthritis, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, and Parkinson’s Disease. It is important to note that none of these conditions alone are sufficient enough to require the withdrawal of driving unless they pose a risk to the driver or others.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed indicators to help doctors determine if a professional driving evaluation is needed: (Source: NHTSA)
When driving, it is important to know that most states do not differentiate between alcohol and drugs when it comes to DWI/DUI. Although your doctor may prescribe certain medications or you choose to take an over the counter medication, you can still be arrested for DWI/DUI just as someone impaired by alcohol.
With all medications always remember to:
As we age, our brain needs more time to process information, making it more difficult to ignore distractions. Years of driving experience and good driving habits can help older drivers compensate for some diminished cognitive abilities.
Warning signs of dementia:
There are many simple and preventative steps you can take to extend your personal mobility:
Helping Mature Drivers Find Their Perfect Fit
Developed by the American Society on Aging in collaboration with AAA, AARP and the American Therapy Association, CarFit is an educational program that uses a 12-point checklist to help older drivers determine how well their vehicles “fit” them. Steering wheel height, seats, mirrors, head restraints, and many other elements of the vehicle must be adjusted to accommodate the physical changes associated with aging, and can improve safety and comfort while driving a vehicle.
Each CarFit evaluation takes about 20 minutes and educates the driver on the correct “fit” based on the following components:
Fitting comfortably in your vehicle plays a big role in staying safe on the roads.
Whether you’ve stopped driving or would like to drive less, there are many alternative options for getting around.
Initiating a conversation about safe driving with an older driver, especially a parent, is challenging for most people. It is not a simple subject to address but there are steps you can take to preserve an older driver’s personal freedom and mobility while ensuring safety on the road.
To learn more about conversations about driving click here.
If you are worried about a loved one and their capacity to safely continue driving, here are some signs to look for: