May is Older Americans Month. As we age, everyday tasks can become more difficult – especially driving. But getting older doesn’t mean you immediately need to give up your license. Unless you and/or your family feel that you are at a point where you need to hand your license back to the MVA, there are some options available to make your time behind the wheel easier and safer.
Complete a Self-Assessment
Aging brings years of driving experience, but it may also bring declining vision, reflexes, and physical fitness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a self-assessment that not only guides you through a checklist of conditions that may impact your driving and also offers solutions. Click here to complete the self-assessment: https://www.nhtsa.gov/older-drivers/driving-safely-while-aging-gracefully.
Get a Professional Assessment
Having your driving assessed by a professional can help you determine if you are still driving safely on the roads. If you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition known to impact driving ability, or if you feel that your driving skills have diminished, or you have a friend or loved one expressing concern about your driving abilities, then you may want to have your driving skills assessed. Some of these medical conditions may be dementia, stroke, sleep disorders, impaired vision, etc.
The first type of professional assessment is a driving skills evaluation, which would be conducted by a state-licensed and trained driving instructor. The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) provides resources to help you obtain a professional evaluation: https://mva.maryland.gov/safety/Pages/older/driver-self-assessment-tools.aspx.
The second is to go through a clinical assessment, which would be conducted by an Occupational Therapist Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (OT-DRS). This specialist can help you determine whether you are fit to drive, if you could benefit from some extra training, or if it may be time to hand over the keys. While these assessments may cost more than a driving skills evaluation, the OT-DRS will be able to develop a plan to get you back on the road safely if you could benefit from some extra help. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has a list of Driving Specialists that can help in your area here: https://myaota.aota.org/driver_search/index.aspx/index.aspx.
Get Your Car Adjusted
Sometimes, there are simple changes you can make to your car to make driving easier. Whether it is moving your seat, steering wheel, or mirrors, or even adding some devices to make it easier to reach things, little adjustments can make a big difference.
The American Society on Aging developed CarFit in collaboration with AAA, AARP, and AOTA. You can attend a CarFit event, or participate in a CarFit Virtual Workshop and Focus Session.
Talking to Older Drivers About Their Driving
It can be tough to have a conversation with an older family member or friend about their ability to drive. Sometimes, the person may not realize that they no longer drive as well as they used to. The National Institute on Aging has some tips to have a conversation with someone about their driving. Some tips include:
- Avoiding confrontation by using “I” messages rather than “You” messages.
- Sticking to the issue of the driver’s skills as opposed to bringing up their age.
- Focus on safety and maintaining independence by being clear that you want the person to continue the activities they enjoy and offering solutions on how they can still get to those activities.
- Being positive and supportive.
Read more here: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/older-drivers.
Maryland Resources from MDOT MVA:
Safety for Older & Medically At-Risk Drivers: https://mva.maryland.gov/Documents/MD-Resource-Guide-for-Aging-Drivers2.pdf
Medical Review Process: https://mva.maryland.gov/safety/Pages/older/mva-medical-advisory-board.aspx