Testing Driving Skills

Signs that an Older Adult’s Driving Skills Need Testing

The following are warning signs that an older adult may need to have a professional test about whether driving is still safe. These signs include:

  • Getting lost, even when driving short, known routes
  • Not obeying traffic rules
  • Driving unsafely, like making poor decisions or cutting off other drivers
  • Reacting slowly to emergencies or having trouble judging distances
  • Becoming easily angry or stressed

Medications can also affect an older adult’s driving. Some medications can make people:

  • Feel sleepy or less alert
  • Have slow reactions
Medication labels may warn against driving while taking drugs. According to the American Automobile Association's (AAA) website on Senior Driving, two-thirds of drivers age 65 and older take five or more daily medications that can affect their ability to drive safely.

An older adult who takes medications may need a healthcare professional to review them.


What Tests Should an Older Driver Take?

The District of Columbia and 35 states have rules for older adult drivers. These include

  • Requiring more frequent license renewals
  • Limiting online or mailed license renewals
  • Requiring vision or road tests
  • Reducing license renewal fees

 Learn more about specific state requirements

Experts recommend the following tests for if an older adult may not be a safe driver:

  • Physical exam. The healthcare provider needs to check if the older adult has had any changes that could affect their driving.
  • Cognitive testing. If an older adult is having any problems with cognition (thinking or memory), they need screening tests of their mental skills.
  • Vision test. An optometrist or an ophthalmologist (eye care professionals) can test for vision problems.
  • Get a healthcare or other professional to test driving. An occupational therapist (OT) trained as a driving rehabilitation specialist (DRS) can ride with an older adult to find out if they are driving safely. This professional can recommend:
    • Driver safety classes
    • Equipment that could make the car safer for the older adult to drive.
    • Driving changes which may be useful for the older adult


Last Updated March 2023

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