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What Is a Formal Driving Assessment?

A comprehensive driving evaluation by a trained professional can determine whether you have the skills and abilities to drive safely

A comprehensive driving evaluation by a trained professional is an objective process for determining:

  • Whether you have the skills and abilities to drive safely;
  • What corrections (if any) are needed;
  • What specific steps you can take to become a better, safer driver;
  • What on-the-road training may be necessary to improve your skills.

See also: CarFit helps mature drivers find their safest fit

Formal driving evaluations generally take two to three hours. They usually consist of a clinical evaluation (including a variety of cognitive, visual and physical assessments) and an on-the-road test with oral feedback or a written report on the results. Programs may vary somewhat; some programs may also use a driving simulator as part of their evaluation process. There may be fees associated with some of these assessments.

Reasons to Consider a Formal Driving Assessment

  • If you feel that your driving continues to be fine, you may appreciate getting a professional opinion to verify your confidence.
  • If you feel like you are not seeing as well as you once did, or are experiencing slowed reaction time or a loss of flexibility, you may benefit from learning how these changes could affect your driving and discover new strategies or tips to keep your driving skills sharp.
  • If you have one or more medical conditions or physical limitations that may lead to a loss of range of motion, flexibility or strength in your arms or legs, you may benefit from an evaluation. It may also provide you with a plan for rehabilitation and/or assistive equipment, if appropriate.
  • If you have experienced a loss of peripheral vision or depth perception or have another vision-related change, a driving evaluation can help.
  • If you have been told that you should stop or limit driving — but you disagree — getting an opinion from an occupational therapist who is also a trained driver rehabilitation specialist may be beneficial. You will undergo a thorough evaluation process that takes a complete picture of your driving skills and abilities and your potential for improvement.
  • If you would like to resume driving after a period of not driving, you could benefit from getting a driving “checkup.” For example if you stopped driving after an illness such as a stroke, an evaluation could show you what effects, if any, the stroke had on your ability to drive safely. It could also point out strategies, rehabilitation therapies or special equipment that could help you drive safely again.
  • If a lifestyle change such as a recent move or illness affects where or how much you drive, you may benefit from a driving evaluation to sharpen skills and build confidence.
  • If you have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease but are in the early stages, you may not need to stop driving immediately. A comprehensive driving evaluation can determine whether you can continue to drive safely for the time being. It can also help you make plans for other ways to travel in the future.

Benefits of a Formal Driving Assessment

A formal driving assessment can provide many benefits:

  • Behind-the-wheel practice to reduce or eliminate any problems or unsafe behaviors;
  • Flexibility exercises to keep you in good driving shape;
  • Counseling and advice on how to meet your specific transportation needs if driving is found to be unsafe.

Professional prescriptions and instructions for assistive equipment that can help you drive longer. These include:

  • Pedal extenders
  • Panoramic rear and side view mirrors
  • Seat lifts to aid in getting into and out of the car
  • Spinner knobs for steering wheel or other hand controls
  • Seat belt extenders

Resources for Formal Assessments

There may be several community resources available to help you conduct a more formal assessment of your driving. Your local hospital could be a good source for finding these resources:

  • Occupational therapy driver rehabilitation specialists
  • Programs sponsored by your county or city office on aging
  • Veterans Administration and other rehabilitation facilities
  • Your state’s bureau or department of motor vehicles or motor vehicle administration, which may have special programs or special licensing options.

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