Getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop driving immediately. But it is a good idea to regularly assess your driving skills. Driving gives you greater independence and freedom, but certain risk factors can threaten your safety, as well as the safety of your passengers and fellow motorists. Your years of experience and reduced tendency for texting and other technology-driven distractions may make you a safer driver than many younger motorists. But issues like vision problems not correctable by glasses, slower reflexes or even arthritis can compromise your driving skills.
Evaluating Your Skills – and Risks – On the Road
Luckily, there are many ways to assess your safe-driving skills and, often, improve them so you can remain a safe and confident driver for years to come. In some cases, certain medical conditions or other age-related issues may make driving too risky, and that’s also important to know for your own – and others’ – safety. Here are some helpful strategies:
- Examine your health and fitness: Have you noticed changes in your flexibility, balance, mobility or reaction time? If so, it’s probably a good idea to make an appointment with your primary care physician. Your doctor can assess your abilities, determine if a medical condition (like arthritis) or a medication you’re taking may be causing your issues, and offer guidance on driving and other activities.
- Take a peek at your car, and consider your recent driving record: Do you notice more dents, scratches or scrapes than usual on your car? Have you found yourself hitting curbs, drifting into other lanes or having close calls with other drivers? Have you been pulled over recently, or often, for issues like running a red light or making an illegal turn? If so, you may want to talk to your doctor who can assess your vision, reflexes and more – or refer you to a specialist. The solution may be as simple as a new eyeglass prescription or driving without distractions like loud music, but it’s best to be proactive.
- Self-check your driving performance: Drivers 65 Plus, a brochure by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, features a self-rating 15-question driving assessment that can help you evaluate your driving performance. Just answer the questions and then follow the instructions to calculate your score. The assessment lists your strengths and weaknesses and offers suggestions for improving your driving.
- Ask a family member or friend for their opinion: If you can handle their honesty, ask a loved one or friend to ride along as your passenger and offer their assessment of your driving skills and safety. Expect some constructive criticism if you go this route but try to be open to their comments. A second set of eyes can provide valuable insight on how well you navigate at different times of day and in various traffic conditions, if you regularly pay attention to signs and the rules of the road, and if you’re having any specific difficulties – like problems looking over your shoulder before backing up or merging due to an arthritic neck.
- Consider a professional assessment: If you want to be sure your driving skills are still on point, you’re concerned about the results of your self-assessment or comments from your passenger(s), you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition known to impact driving abilities, or you’ve recently experienced some near-misses, consider a driving skills evaluation or clinical driving assessment.
- In-car driving skills evaluations, conducted by state-licensed and trained driving instructors, can confirm your skills are in good shape, identify areas where you may need some specialized driver’s training or reveal the need for a clinical driving assessment by an occupational therapist driving rehabilitation specialist (OT-DRS).
- Clinical driving assessments by OT-DRSs typically include a review of your medical history and a cognitive assessment, a functional/on-road assessment, and treatment and intervention, as needed. This may include specialized driver’s training, adaptive driving instruction and/or vehicle modifications. These assessments reveal if you are perfectly fit to drive, need some extra training or equipment, or are no longer able to drive safely. The American Occupational Therapy Association provides a nationwide database of driving programs and specialists.
One of the benefits of living in an Embark community, is residents can drive themselves if it safe for them to do so, or they can use our transportation service. Learn more here.