While motorists over 50 are on average safer drivers, after age 70 cognitive and physical abilities begin to decline. Only two states — New Hampshire and Illinois — require that seniors retake a road test after a certain age. That’s why self-assessment can be crucial.
A number of online screening resources — including AAA’s Roadwise Review, The American Medical Association’s “Am I a Safe Driver?” checklist and the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute’s Driving Decisions Workbook — exist to help you evaluate your driving abilities. Use them periodically to assess your improvement or decline. “These tests are not absolute and will not give you a concrete thumbs up or thumbs down,” says Nina M. Silverstein, PhD, a gerontologist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “But if you start early and set a benchmark for yourself, you can use the tests as a tool to see how your driving is trending. If you notice yourself getting worse, it could be a very good idea to talk to your doctor or a family member about next steps.”
Adapted from the AAAF’s Drivers 65-Plus Self-Rating Form, the following checklist can help you determine whether you’re a driving risk — and if so, help you change course. Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each question.
1. I try to stay informed of changes in driving and highway laws and techniques.
2. Intersections bother me: There is too much to watch for from all directions.
3. I find it difficult to decide when to merge with traffic on a busy interstate highway.
4. I think I am slower than I used to be in reacting to dangerous driving situations.
5. When I am really upset, it affects my driving.
6. My thoughts wander when I am driving.
7. Traffic situations make me angry.
8. I get regular eye checks to keep my vision at its sharpest.
9. I check with my doctor or pharmacist about how the medications I take affect my driving ability.
10. My children, other family members or friends have expressed concern about my driving ability.
If you answer yes to five or more questions, you might consider taking an in-person or online driving refresher course or submitting to a voluntary driving test at your local DMV. Another option to consider is the possibility of getting a limited license from your state DMV. A limited license serves to keep you safe from potentially hazardous driving times or conditions, restricting you to daytime driving or certain geographic areas only or prohibiting freeway driving. “For many people, giving up driving — or admitting they have some limitations — is the single biggest adjustment they’ll make in their lives,” says Barbara Kate Repa, senior editor at Caring.com. “By outlining how and when you can and can not drive, a limited license can give you confidence to drive at appropriate times and keep you safe.”