Safe Driver Evaluation: Maintaining Independence in Older Adults

As we age, we may become more forgetful, our reaction time slows and our vision may begin to fail. Present in an active driver, these conditions can cause unsafe driving and lead to accidents or worse. Getting a safe driver evaluation, especially after age 65, can give you or your loved one the tools and confidence to continue driving safely.

What is a safe driver evaluation?
 
During a driver evaluation participants are assessed to determine their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, with or without adaptive driving aids. The evaluation provides the participants’ physician with objective data for use when completing medical forms provided by their home state. If a driver’s license has been revoked due to a medical condition, a passing driver evaluation can restore a participant’s driver’s license.
 
What should a safe driver evaluation include?
 
A good driver evaluation includes:
 
  • Clinical Component: A thorough clinical evaluation usually includes physical measurements of range of motion, strength, coordination, sensation, reflexes and reaction time as well as visual measurements of clarity, depth perception, peripheral vision and night vision.
  • Written Component: A written assessment is also usually included which evaluates the driver’s knowledge of street signs, laws and other road signals.
  • On-Road Test: Ideally the clinical evaluation and written assessment are then followed by a behind-the-wheel evaluation with a certified driving instructor in a driving range or on the road. Usually a specially-equipped vehicle is used which the individual may try out different adaptive devices. If participants are comfortable with technology, some evaluators may use a driving simulator in a computerized format. However, computerized models can never replace a real road test.
What happens once the evaluation is complete?
 
After the evaluation, the instructor will make a recommendation. He or she may pass the individual, but some may need additional driving instruction or adaptive equipment. The therapist will work with the individual to come up with a training program, and recommend any necessary driving aids or devices. Recommendations may also include some suggested driving restrictions like avoiding highway driving, or not driving at night.
 
Who should conduct the evaluation?
 
Driver evaluations should never be conducted by a family member or family physician. These individuals are not thoroughly trained on how to properly assess for safe driving.
 
Evaluations should be conducted by a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS). Therapists with a CDRS certification specialize in aiding people with disabilities, including older adults, with driving. They help people get back on the road, and maintain their independence. They have expertise in adaptive driving and can help individuals obtain adaptive driving equipment if needed.
 
A driver evaluation can provide peace of mind to older adults and their caregivers. Getting a driver evaluation ensures that individuals are properly assessed and have the equipment they need to drive safely on the road.
 
For more information about Good Shepherd's programs and services, call 1-888-44-REHAB (73422) or contact us.
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