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Why Seniors Need Driving Evaluations by Occupational Therapists

AOTA - November 09, 2016 02:55 PM

Occupational therapists with specialized training in driver rehabilitation may administer comprehensive driving evaluations. This type of driving evaluation typically includes two parts: one part in an office or clinic and the second part behind the wheel of a car. The purpose of the evaluation in the office or clinic is to examine the physical, visual, and mental abilities required for safe driving. This would include:

    Reaction time, needed for stopping fast enough to avoid a crash;
    Basic visual acuity, or sharpness of vision; and
    Decision making, (e.g., needed for making left turns).

The behind-the-wheel or on-road part of the evaluation takes place in a vehicle equipped with safety equipment such as an instructor's brake. The on-road evaluation identifies an older driver's strengths and weaknesses and ways to keep driving safely. If necessary, the evaluation may use adaptive equipment.

Based on your evaluation, the therapist can make recommendations about strategies, specialized equipment, and training to improve your driving safety and your overall health and well-being. On the other hand, if the evaluation results indicate the need to stop driving, the therapist can help you understand why this is the most appropriate option for your safety and that of others.

You may have a choice of programs that offer driving evaluations. Occupational therapists that specialize in driving evaluations are trained to assess physical, visual, and mental abilities required for safe driving. Occupational therapists are health care specialists that have the knowledge needed to recognize changes associated with medical conditions or aging and to tailor evaluation and intervention plans to each individual.

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The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is the national professional association established in 1917 to represent the interests and concerns of occupational therapy practitioners and students and improve the quality of occupational therapy services. AOTA membership is approximately 50,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students.

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