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Published By Beth Lueders on December 17, 2015

Because of his fused spine, 83-year-old Jim is unable to rotate his neck fully. His family frets about him driving.

Another family worries, too. Is Marilyn's arthritic knee slowing her from reaching the brake pedal?

With an estimated 35 million licensed drivers older than 65 in America, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these families are not alone in their concerns. Should their elderly loved ones hang up the car keys?

Feet numb from diabetic neuropathy. Cataracts and glaucoma. Hearing loss. High-dose pain medications. A number of health conditions can limit seniors who still want to remain independent behind the wheel, but a driver rehabilitation specialist can help. A certified driver rehabilitation specialist is typically an occupational therapist who tests cognitive and physical fitness to drive. A comprehensive driver evaluation includes the following:

  • Clinical Evaluation—an in-office review of a driver’s:
    • Vision (depth perception and peripheral vision)
    • Cognition (judgment, speed of response and memory)
    • Motor control (flexibility, range of motion and strength)
    • Behind-the-Wheel Evaluation
      • Visual scanning of environment
      • Reaction time
      • Vehicle control
      • Problem solving and negotiating traffic

 Once the elderly driver is assessed for strengths and weaknesses, the specialist can either help provide training for using adaptive equipment, or assist with retraining for deficits. The older driver also may be referred to a medical practitioner.

Nationwide, the cost of a driver evaluation can vary from $200 to $1,000; health insurance or Medicare may cover some of the expense. Driver rehabilitation specialists are often available through local hospitals and physical rehabilitation centers. People also may contact The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists or The American Occupational Therapy Association.

Overall, the chief goal of driver rehabilitation testing and follow-up adjustments is to balance a senior driver’s independence and freedom while respecting personal and public safety.

What limitations are you noticing when a senior loved one gets behind the wheel?

An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.

* Did you know that Non-Medical Home Care includes providing transportation?*

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