With more and more older drivers on the road, physicians are in a leading position to address preventable injuries incurred in motor vehicle crashes. Currently, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among 65- to 74-year-olds and are the second leading cause (after falls) among 75- to 84-year-olds. While traffic safety programs have reduced the fatality rate for drivers under age 65, the fatality rate for older drivers has consistently remained high. By providing effective health care, physicians can help their patients maintain a high level of fitness, enabling them to preserve safe driving skills later in life and protecting them against serious injuries in the event of a crash.
This 235-page Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers serves as a detailed guide for all physicians dealing with older drivers. It is the product of a cooperative agreement between the American Medical Association and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As the number of older drivers with medical conditions expands, patients and their families will increasingly turn to physicians for guidance on safe driving. Physicians will have the challenge of balancing their patients’ safety against their transportation needs and the safety of society. This guide is intended to help them answer the questions, “At what level of severity do medical conditions impair safe driving?” “What should I do to help my patient drive more safely?”
The guide also advises physicians how to best counsel patients about driving cessation and alternate means of transportation. The AMA and NHTSA both believe that mobility counseling and discussing alternative modes of transportation need to take a more prominent role in the physician’s office. To these ends, they have reviewed the scientific literature and collaborated with clinicians and experts in this field to produce the following physician tools:
- An office-based assessment of medical fitness to drive. This assessment is outlined in the algorithm, Physician’s Plan for Older Drivers’ Safety (PPODS), presented in the first chapter.
- A functional assessment battery, the Assessment of Driving Related Skills (ADReS). This can be found in Chapter 3.
- A reference table of medical conditions and medications that may affect driving, with specific recommendations for each, can be found in Chapter 9.
There are additional resources provided in this rich and detailed guide for physicians.
How to Use
This outstanding publication from the AMA and NHTSA for physicians is available to all physicians, but it may not yet be in all of their hands. Local government officials and community leaders should insist that the physicians and healthcare professionals in their communities are not only aware of this important resource, but have it in their hands. Those leaders responsible for transportation-related initiatives for seniors should also read the guide themselves to be better equipped to address citizen concerns and issues related to older drivers.