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
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