As seniors range of motion, dexterity and response time begins to slow, auditing driving ability may become necessary. Also, complications from arthritis, stroke or other conditions might make driving particularly difficult for this population.
Providers who work with seniors might recommend a driving evaluation. Driver rehabilitation specialists help determine a person’s ability and also recommend adaptive equipment that might help. To locate a driver rehabilitation specialist, contact the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (www.driver-ed.org).
Some simple adaptive devices to ease driving comfort include easy-locking seat belts, visor extenders, steering wheel covers to improve grip on the steering wheel, seat and back support cushions to relieve back pain or improve line of sight. Other products might require training, according to “Carfit: Helping Mature Drivers Find Their Perfect Fit” — a guide developed through collaboration among the American Society on Aging, AARP, the American Occupational Therapy Association and AAA. These devices may include:
- Larger, panoramic rear and side mirrors
- Pedal extenders
- Leverage handles to assist in opening a car door
- Hand controls
- Seat lifts to aid in getting out of a car seat
- Car lifts and carrying devices for a wheelchair or scooter
- A steering device to aid in grabbing the wheel and making turns easier or more efficient.
The guide is available for download at www.seniordrivers.org.
If you’re unsure if a client needs a driving evaluation, check out some of the warning signs offered by the AARP:
- Difficulty staying in the lane of travel
- More frequent “close calls” (i.e. almost crashing)
- More frequent dents, scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
- Trouble judging gaps in traffics at intersections and on highway entrance/exit ramps
- Other drivers honking more often
- Getting lost more often
- Hard to turn around to check over shoulder while backing up or changing lanes
- Medical conditions or medications that may be increasingly affecting ability to handle the car safely
- More traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers in the last year or two.