Driving Safety: Getting Professional Assessments

Expert advice for older drivers

If you're not sure whether or not an older driver is safe behind the wheel, there are experts who can help.

The driver's physicians

What you can do: Make sure the driver is up to date with medical and vision exams. If you have concerns that health or vision problems may be impeding his driving abilities, tell his physician or eye doctor. Be specific about any symptoms you've observed.

By law, doctors can't share medical information without a patient's permission, unless you have medical power of attorney or he has signed a HIPAA release. Even if he refuses to allow the doctor to give you information, you should still alert the physician if you've noticed symptoms or behaviors that worry you.      

Driver rehabilitation specialists

What they do: A certified driver rehabilitation specialist (CDRS) is an expert -- usually a driving instructor or occupational therapist -- who is trained to evaluate someone's driving abilities. A CDRS won't hesitate to recommend driving cessation if she believes a driver is no longer safe. At the same time, she won't tell an older person to stop driving if it's not warranted, no matter what the caregiver wishes.

If an older driver is still safe behind the wheel but her skills could use improvement, a few sessions with a CDRS can help her break bad habits and learn new skills. A CDRS can also recommend safety devices, such as special mirrors or adaptive foot pedals.

If the CDRS concludes that an older adult is no longer safe to drive, she'll help ease the transition by providing concrete information and support. Many driving programs and geriatric centers have such experts on staff. You can also find a CDRS near you by consulting the directory on the Association for Driving Rehabilitation Specialists' website.

Connie Matthiessen

Constance (Connie) Matthiessen, senior editor, has worked as a healthcare and environmental journalist at the Center for Investigative Reporting and has written for WebMD, Consumer Health Interactive, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, BabyCenter. See full bio