Assessment of Your Driving Skills
Adapted from the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists.
A behind-the-wheel evaluation is one of the best methods for an older driver to learn about how well they are doing. A driving evaluation in your own car is one of the most helpful methods to determine your driving abilities.
A driving evaluation does not have to result in removal of driving privileges. Instead, an older driver can often make changes to continue to drive and drive safely.
To schedule a driving evaluation, contact a hospital, a clinic, or a commercial driving school that has a driver rehabilitation specialist. There is information below about driving assessments by the different specialists.
These specialists normally work in the health care field. You can often find a specialist for driving evaluations through an occupational therapy (OT) department in a clinic or hospital. Be aware that not all clinics and hospital OT departments have these specialists, and you may have to travel to find a facility with a specialist.
An evaluation conducted by a driver rehabilitation specialist includes both a physical evaluation and a driving evaluation. The physical evaluation includes checks of your vision, reaction times, and "cognitive ability" (the ability to think).
Following the physical evaluation, a driving evaluation takes place. This evaluation usually lasts one hour. The specialist then writes a report.
A DRS helps patients to drive again as they recover from an incident like a stroke or a traffic crash. A doctor, family member or a court may refer a driver to a DRS.
A DRS may use a specially-equipped vehicle to help evaluate and teach a driver who has a disability.
A DRS may discuss special equipment or training for the driver. A DRS may also discuss with the driver and family the need to stop driving if the evaluation suggests that it is safer to stop. The driver and family need to discuss these issues with the DRS before the evaluation.
Health insurance may pay the cost of an evaluation by a DRS if the driver was referred by a doctor or a health plan.
Some commercial driving schools also conduct driving assessments. There are some driving schools with professional instructors who are specialists in older driver or disabled driver evaluations. Carefully evaluate the services available from the driving school.
Like a driver rehabilitation specialist, the driving school instructor can supply a written report. The report includes details about your driving skills and how you can improve your skills.
Driving schools are listed in the Yellow Pages under "Driving Instruction."
What is a driver rehabilitation program?
A driver rehabilitation program (DRP) evaluates the driving skills of persons who may have conditions that can affect driving. These programs normally include three parts:
- An evaluation of the physical and mental abilities required for safe driving,
- A behind-the wheel driving evaluation, and
- If indicated by the evaluation, a driver training program.
Who performs driver rehabilitation evaluations?
Occupational therapists are normally the rehabilitation specialists who conduct driver rehabilitation evaluations. Driving is part of occupational therapy because it is an activity that is important to independence and to the quality of your life. Occupational therapists work with persons who may have physical or mental challenges and help them remain as independent as possible.
An occupational therapist assesses more than the skills, abilities and condition of a driver. The therapist is trained to assess the overall lifestyle and needs of the person. The evaluation of the person and their life includes assessment of the psychological and social well-being of the person.
The primary purpose of occupational therapy is to help the person remain independent. However, an evaluation may determine that a person needs to stop driving. In these cases, the occupational therapist can help the person and their family to find transportation other than driving.
What is assessed during a physical and mental evaluation?
The evaluation of the physical and mental condition of the driver can include computerized testing and sometimes a driving simulator. The following information and skills are evaluated:
- Driving History - This evaluation includes assessment of:
- The frequency, length and reason for trips by the driver and the locations of trips (city or rural).
- The types of roadways used (highways, busy intersections, etc).
- The times of driving (for example driving at night or during rush hours).
- Whether the driver uses another person to help navigate and whether there is another resident who can drive.
- The knowledge of the driver about the area and area roadways.
- Routine vehicle maintenance history.
- Medicines - The assessment includes information about prescription and non-prescription medicines.
- Communication abilities - The assessment includes evaluations of the ability of the driver to read road signs, interpret symbols, and speak.
- Physical abilities - The assessments include evaluations of vision, hearing, the ability to freely move the body and limbs, strength, coordination and reaction times.
What is assessed during a behind-the-wheel driving evaluation?
A behind-the-wheel driving evaluation is normally done in a specially-equipped vehicle with another set of brakes for the occupational therapist. The vehicle can also have added equipment and devices needed by the driver. For example, the vehicle can have hand controls, devices to assist steering, built-up pedals or other accessories.
During the behind-the-wheel evaluation, the occupational therapist looks for the abilities of the driver to:
- get into the car,
- adjust the equipment (seats, mirrors and other adjustable equipment),
- start the car, and
- control the vehicle while driving.
The evaluation may be done on an off-road course or on local roads. What is evaluated includes:
- The distances the driver keeps between their vehicle and other vehicles and objects,
- The position, speed and path of the vehicle on the road,
- If the driver can recognize hazards, and
- How the driver communicates. For example, does the driver correctly understand road signs and communicate with other drivers through signals?
What is done with information from a driver rehabilitation evaluation?
If conducted in a medical facility, the occupational therapist enters the results in the medical records of the driver. The results are also reported to the doctor if a doctor referred the driver for the evaluation. With the permission of the driver, the results and recommendations can be discussed with the family of the driver.
The evaluation results are recommendations only. The therapist is not required to report the results of the driver evaluation to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The therapist does not report the results to the DMV without the written consent of the driver. The driver must inform the DMV of medical conditions as required by law. The driver is asked to report a medical condition at the time of a driver license renewal.
A driver can request the DMV to conduct a re-evaluation of their skills. The DMV can also do a driver re-evaluation if the DMV receives information about the physical or mental condition of a driver and conduct based on:
- an accident report,
- the report of a doctor or a police officer, or
- a report from a member of family of the driver or other citizen.
The American Medical Association recommends that doctors use their best judgment to determine when to report an impaired driver to the state DMV. New York State laws do not require doctors to report impaired drivers.
Does health insurance pay the cost of a driver rehabilitation evaluation?
Health insurance will normally pay the cost of a driver rehabilitation evaluation by an occupational therapist if the person:
- has a medical diagnosis, and
- has a referral from a doctor.
Check with your health insurance carrier about what your policy includes.
How can I find a driver rehabilitation program?
Contact your doctor and local medical facilities where most driver rehabilitation programs are located. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists has a web page to search for certified driver rehabilitation specialists by state .
The sources of information for this web page included the AARP and the National Older Driver Research and Training Center .