Driver Screening and Evaluation Program
Volume III: Guidelines for Motor Vehicle Administrators
for the General Driving Public
How Is Your Driving Health?
A Self-Awareness Checklist
Tips to Help You Drive Safely Longer
A product promoting Safe Mobility for Life
from the Maryland Research Consortium on older drivers.
Good driving health begins with good vision. With declining vision, your responses to signals, signs, and
changing traffic conditions become slower, increasing your crash risk.
- You have problems reading highway or street signs, or recognizing someone you know across the street.
- You have trouble seeing lane lines & other pavement markings; curbs & medians; and other vehicles &
pedestrians, especially at dawn or dusk, and at night.
- You are experiencing more discomfort from the glare of oncoming headlights at night.
Make sure your corrective lenses have a current prescription, and always wear them. If you lose or break
your glasses, don't rely on an old pair; replace them right away with your new prescription.
Do not wear sunglasses or tinted lenses at night. This reduces the amount of light that reaches your eyes, and
makes driving much more hazardous.
Keep your windshield and headlights clean, and make sure your headlight aim is checked when your vehicle
Sit high enough in your seat so that you can see the road within 10 feet in front of your car. This will make
a big difference in reducing the amount of glare you experience from opposing headlights at night. Use a
cushion if your car seats don't have vertical adjustment.
- People age 61 and older should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist every year to check for cataracts,
glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and other conditions for which we are at greater risk
as we grow older.
Diminished strength, flexibility, and coordination can have a major impact on your ability to control your
vehicle in a safe manner.
- You have trouble looking over your shoulder to change lanes, or looking left & right to check traffic at
- You have trouble moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal, or turning the steering wheel.
- You have fallen down to the floor or ground -- not counting a trip or stumble
-- once or more in the
- You walk less than 1 block per day.
- You can't raise your arms above your shoulders.
- You feel pain in your knees, legs, or ankles when going up or down a flight of stairs (10 steps).
- With your doctor's approval, do some stretching exercises, and start a walking program. Walk around the
block, or in a shopping mall. Also, check your local health clubs, YMCAs, senior centers, community
colleges, and hospitals for fitness programs geared to the needs of seniors.
Get examined by a podiatrist if you have pain or swelling in your feet. If you have pain or stiffness in your
arms, legs, or neck, your doctor may prescribe medication and/or physical therapy.
An occupational therapist or a certified driving rehabilitation specialist
may be able to prescribe special
equipment for your car to make it easier to steer and to use your pedals.
Eliminate your driver's side blind spot by re-aiming your mirror. First, lean your head against the
window, then adjust your mirror outward so that when you look at the inside edge you can barely see the side
of your car. If you use a wide-angle mirror, get lots of practice judging distances to other cars before using it
ATTENTION AND REACTION TIME
Driving often requires quick reactions to safety threats. As we grow older, it becomes more difficult to divide
attention and to make rapid responses.
- You feel overwhelmed by all of the signs, signals, markings, pedestrians, and other vehicles that you must
pay attention to at intersections.
- Gaps in traffic are harder to judge, making it more difficult to turn left at intersections, or to merge with
traffic when turning right.
- You take medications that make you drowsy.
- You often get lost or become disoriented.
- You aren't confident that you can handle the demands of high speeds or heavy traffic volumes.
- You are slower in recognizing cars coming out of driveways or side streets, or realizing that another car has
slowed or stopped ahead of you.
- Plan your route. Drive where you are familiar with the road conditions and traffic patterns.
Drive during the day, and avoid rush hours.
A passenger can serve as a "second pair of eyes." But don't get distracted in conversation!
When approaching intersections, remember to stay alert for cars and pedestrians entering from the side
Leave enough distance between you and the car ahead to react to a sudden stop, but understand that
too large a gap will invite others to cut in front of you in heavy traffic. A gap of 3 seconds or more is most
desirable, conditions permitting. Look for a tree, sign, etc. When the car ahead of you passes this point count
"1001, 1002, 1003." If you can count to 1003 by the time you get to the same point, this equals a 3-second
DON'T IGNORE THE WARNING SIGNS --
HAS THIS HAPPENED TO YOU?
- A friend or family member has expressed concern about your driving.
You sometimes get lost while driving on routes that were once familiar.
You have been pulled over by a police officer and warned of poor driving behavior, regardless of whether
or not you received a ticket.
You have had several moving violations, near misses, or actual crashes in the past three years.
Your doctor or other health care giver has advised you to restrict or stop driving.
- Listen to what people tell you who know you best and care the most about you.
Discuss driving with your doctor--he or she can evaluate the interactions and side effects of all the
medications you may be taking.
Refresh your knowledge of safe driving practices and learn about new traffic control & roadway design
features through a mature driver class.
Begin planning for alternative ways of meeting your mobility needs. Now is the time to learn about
mobility options in your community -- try them out...see what works best for you.
SELF AWARENESS: THE KEY TO SAFE DRIVING
While we all want to keep driving for as long we can, none of us wants to be a threat to ourselves or to others
because we are no longer able to drive safely. A leading cause of accidental death among older persons is
It's important to remember that most seniors are capable, and have a lifetime of valuable driving experience.
Decisions about a person's ability to drive should never be based on age alone.
Fortunately, most seniors take appropriate steps when they detect a problem with their driving. But it's not
always obvious when a general health problem, vision problem, or a side effect of medications will lead to a
Self awareness is the key. People who can accurately assess their fitness to drive can adjust their driving habits,
and stay safe on the road. They will retain the personal mobility that comes with driving, while limiting the
risks to themselves and to others.
This brochure can increase your awareness about different problems that lead to unsafe driving. It also gives
you tips to help keep you behind the wheel. For more information, contact:
To find a driver rehabilitation specialist in your area:
- Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) (608) 884-8833, www.driver-ed.org
- American Occupational Therapy Association (301) 652-2682, www.aota.org
To find a mature driver education class in your area:
- AARP/55-Alive. 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669)
- AAA Safe Driving for Mature Drivers
(Call your local AAA club for availability of classes)
For information about benefits & services for older persons provided by the Agency on Aging in your area:
- Eldercare Locator 1-800-677-1116
- State contact info: www.aoa.gov/aoa/pages/state.html