Older Driver Safety Awareness Week
December 2-6, 2013
December 2-6 is the American Occupational Therapy Association's Older Driver Safety Awareness week. The goal of the week is "to promote understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation to ensure that older adults remain active in the community with the confidence that transportation will not be the barrier to strand them at home" (AOTA, 2013).
Currently there are 33 million older adults that are driving; however by 2050 this number is expected to increase to 88 million older adults (Silverstein, 2013). Changes in physical, emotional, and/or cognitive health can affect the ability to drive safely. Although these changes can be a normal part of aging, they are different for every older adult. Proactive, early planning is important in order to continue driving safely and to maintain the highest level of independence. Older adult drivers have an increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications which can increase the chance for injury, or even death during a motor vehicle accident (CDC, 2013) Occupational therapy practitioners address driving as an essential activity of daily living, and they can help older adults maintain their driving safety and community mobility despite age-related changes (AOTA, 2013).
Most healthy drivers make their own decision to limit their driving if needed, however some individuals may have difficulty with self-regulation in relation to driving (AARP, 2013). Loyola University Medical Center has developed a Driver Rehabilitation Program with a focus of assessing a person's ability to safely continue to drive, or return to driving after a medical illness. The goal of the program and subsequent intervention is to explore ways for individuals to drive safely for as long as possible. For more information on this program, call (708) 216-5300. Driver Rehabilitation is provided by Megan McCullough, an occupational therapist at Loyola Center for Rehabilitation in Maywood, IL.
Family and friends play a vital role in discussions about older driver safety. It is critical to start the conversation early with loved ones in order to allow for time to plan and explore options long before an accident or crisis happens.
For families, AARP has a free online seminar entitled "We Need To Talk" to help determine how to assess a loved one's driving skills, if/when it is time to stop or limit driving, and provide tools to start the conversation (AARP, 2013).
For older adult drivers, AARP has a free, interactive online tool designed for drivers 50 years and up which has tools, games, and resources that are focused on the driver, the vehicle, and the road. It includes interactive driving simulators, a drug interaction center to assess how your medications may affect your driving, rules of the road, and a fitness to drive screening measure.
For more information on Driver Rehabilitation Specialists and Driver Rehabilitation Programs visit the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) at http://www.driver-ed.org