When to Put the Brakes On

Organization: Author:
By: Ernest Santos, OTR/L, driving rehabilitation specialist, MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute at Long Beach Memorial
Live Healthy Topics:
older adult driving

As you get older, you'll likely notice physical changes that can make certain actions more challenging, such as turning your head to look for oncoming traffic or braking safely. The majority of older adults 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 driving impairment. That's when the observations of loved ones and health professionals are crucial.

Below are some warning signs that indicate a person may be at risk and should be evaluated by a professional:

  1. Almost crashing, with frequent "close calls"
  2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors,
    curbs, etc.
  3. Getting lost, especially in familiar locations
  4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs and
    pavement markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or causing other drivers to honk or complain
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check the rear view while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving multiple traffic tickets or "warnings" from law enforcement officers

Persons with various medical conditions, or those who have experienced serious illness or injury, may find their driving ability impaired. Aging also may cause changes in vision, flexibility, strength, reaction time or thinking skills, which can affect driving ability. Mature drivers should know that they have many options and can seek alternatives to help them have the safest drive possible.

The Driving Rehabilitation Program at the MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute at
Long Beach Memorial offers specialized evaluation and training to assess driving skills of older adults and of persons with disabilities. Driving rehabilitation is available to individuals with compromised driving skills as a result of conditions, illness, injuries or the effects of aging.

Through this program, the driving rehabilitation specialist offers specialized evaluation and training to assess driving skills of older adults and of persons with disabilities. The program offers a mature driver a unique perspective on his/her physical, mental and cognitive abilities necessary for driving. If a person has experienced a recent stroke for example, the Driving Rehabilitation Program is a necessary step to be properly evaluated both medically and physically before attempting to return to driving independence.

The Driving Rehabilitation Program includes an evaluation to test various physical and thinking skills required for safe driving and a behind-the-wheel driving evaluation in a training vehicle. A prescription for a driving evaluation from a physician is required, along with a valid driver’s license or driver’s permit. For more information on the
Driving Rehabilitation Program at Long Beach Memorial, call (562) 933-9084.