Assessment Can Help Older Drivers Keep Driving Safely, from the August 2015 Harvard Health Letter

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Aging may affect vision, hearing, coordination, thinking, visuospatial skills, or reaction time, any of which can have a direct impact on driving. Driver assessment programs help people overcome weaknesses behind the wheel.

Driving skills may decline with age, but don't assume that getting older brings an automatic end to driving, says the August 2015 Harvard Health Letter.

"Age and health conditions aren't enough to determine if a person is okay to drive. It requires an individual assessment of skills," says Lissa Kapust, a social worker at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Many hospitals, sheriff's offices, and other agencies offer driving assessment programs that can evaluate senior drivers and help them overcome weaknesses behind the wheel. Many of these programs take a team approach to evaluating a person's driving ability. Social workers, occupational therapists, and neuropsychologists look at the person's driving history, family concerns, overall health, cognitive function, and driving reflexes. Then it's on to a road test.

The team looks at all of the information and recommends whether the driver needs to hand over his or her car keys, or whether brushing up on certain skills is needed. "We may suggest working with a driving instructor to focus on errors we found in the driving assessment, such as maintaining lane position," says Kapust.

Some driving programs can also help seniors get up to speed on the latest driving laws in their state and learn about technologies in newer cars, and can even help them fit better in their cars by adjusting the position of the seat, head restraint, steering wheel, and more.

Read the full-length article: "Stay behind the wheel longer"

Also in the August 2015 Harvard Health Letter:

  •     Ways to keep relationships strong
  •     Finding relief for hand pain
  •     The benefits of nutrient-dense foods

The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/health or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

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Media: Contact Kristen Rapoza at hhpmedia(at)hms.harvard(dot)edu for a complimentary copy of the newsletter, or to receive our press releases directly.

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