Most Americans consider driving to be essential to their independence and quality of life. Driving is one of the most complex tasks that we perform on a daily basis. Dignity Health promotes lifelong community mobility and the desire for individuals to lead independent purposeful and productive lives.
Your Dignity Health providers are committed to offering practical guidance to accommodate the needs and functional limitations of roadway users to keep our communities safe, active and thriving. An educated community is an empowered community. We watch out for each other because that is what is at the heart of humankindness.
Older Driver Statistics
There has been tremendous growth in the older adult population in the United States and this trend is expected to continue. By 2030, one out of every five Americans will be over the age of 65, resulting in an older adult population of more than 70 million people. Older adults are some of the safest drivers, but they are subject to increased scrutiny. Research has proven that it is not age that leads to problems with driving, rather it is a decline in driving related abilities accompanying aging or arising from medical conditions or medications that make driving more dangerous.
The Medically at Risk Driver
Conditions that put drivers at risk are not the sole province of seniors. Patients of chronic conditions such as stroke, head injury, dementia or seizure are at risk, as are those with temporary medical conditions such as knee/hip replacements, urinary tract infections, pneumonia and some cancers.
At Dignity Health the physician is held accountable for knowledge of medical conditions that may affect driving safety. Your Dignity Health doctor may ask about your driving fitness, and may also recommend at times, that you not drive until you have medical clearance. Your physician may also recommend further testing from an occupational therapist.
Medical Conditions that May Affect the Safe Operation of a Motor Vehicle
- Alzheimers and related dementias or memory deficits
- Field of vision loss, low vision, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration
- Neurological conditions such as Stroke, Brain injuries and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis
- Physical limitations caused by arthritis, paralysis, amputations or sensory changes
- Overall health issues such as complications of advanced diabetes and cardiac health
- Slowed thinking skills, reaction time and decision making due to medications, poor physical condition or advanced age
How can an Occupational Therapist Help?
The American Medical Association has designated the Occupational Therapist to address driving fitness and safety needs.
The Occupational Therapist works closely with the physician and health care team to address driving as a routine part of our daily living skills. The goal of occupational therapy is to promote independence and safety at all stages of our lives, including driving. A physician must write a prescription order for one to see the Occupational Therapist whose practices include:
- Administering standardized assessments.
- Educating individuals and families with assessment results.
- Developing an individualized program to improve safety through retraining, exercises and compensation strategies
- Exploring adaptive equipment
- Collaborating with Driver Rehabilitation Specialists for in depth vehicle assessments, adaptations and driver training
- Collaborating with driving schools that provide behind the wheel testing and instruction
- Identifying transportation alternatives to support continued mobility
Alternative Transportation Options
Just as we plan for housing and financing, we need to consider transportation options to ensure continued access to our community. Community mobility includes:
- Private transportation and shared rides
- Public transportation such as taxi’s or buses, trains and subways
- Paratransit that assist with disabled persons or wheelchair users
We encourage members of the community to practice using alternative forms of transportation to prepare for the time when one may not be able to drive. Seniors are encouraged to try using alternative transit options while they still feel healthy. A support person can accompany or follow behind. Once a person becomes familiar with the process, fears diminish significantly.
Early Signs that a Driver May be Unsafe
- Having trouble changing lanes
- Having minor accidents
- Getting lost on familiar routes
- Having difficulty reading road signs
- Having other drivers honk frequently
- Being spoken to about driving by law enforcement, friends or family
Tips on How to Have a Conversation About Driving
- Be patient and sincere
- Share your concern
- Do not let fear delay your conversation
- Suggest a plan such as a talk with the doctor, or getting an assessment with an occupational therapist who can help with facilitating the conversation
Need More Information?
- American Occupational Therapy Association
- Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialist
- Family Conversations with Older Drivers
- The Hartford Mature Market Excellence
- Training Research and Education for Driving Safety (TREDS)
If you are concerned but do not want to confront someone about their driving ability, you may make a confidential report to the DMV. You may call (800) 777-0133 or go to dmv.ca.gov to obtain the Request for Driver Reexamination (form DS 699).
Driver Safety Brochure
Learn how health can affect your driving ability with the Driver Safety Brochure.