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Should Seniors Undergo DMV Retesting after a Certain Age?

by Elin Schold Davis, Elder Driving Expert
December 15, 2016

Question: Is there a certain age at which a senior should be retested at the DMV?

Answer: As an occupational therapist certified in driving rehabilitation, I believe that age-based testing is not the answer. The ability to safely operate a motor vehicle depends on the functional capability of the individual and function can change at any age. However, seniors are no stranger to changes and adapting their approach to activities accordingly.

The concept of seeking an assessment of abilities with the intent to learn and grow as you understand the meaning of the results is proactive and wise. For some, a refresher of skills is a preventative measure. But for some facing medically related changes, changes that may challenge their fitness to drive, would serve themselves and the community best by seeking a comprehensive driving evaluation by an occupational therapy driving rehabilitation specialist to explore changes that make one unsafe and explore any options available to correct through education, training and/or adaptive equipment.  

There comes a time for some where health related changes make operating a vehicle unsafe to self and others. The risk is too high. If measured by a test at the DMV, in the physician’s office, or at an occupational therapy appointment, when the recommendation is to stop, it is the duty of that individual and their family to comply. The hardest part for many is stopping before an incident or accident occurs, based only on tests that may seem unrelated to the driving task. 

There are a few tips to know if you feel the recommendation seems unfair. First, it is reasonable to confirm the data on which the decision was made. One example could be jumping to conclusion based on a screening test alone. Some commonly used tests were developed to screen only, the intention is to identify concern not make a decision- yet. The expectation of a screen is to justify taking the time to look further by seeking a physician’s review or evaluating the range of driving skills and abilities through a comprehensive driving evaluation.  It is reasonable to be your own advocate and make sure the tests used were designed for the level of decision. Then, once the senior driver and family have confirmed that the test was valid and administered by a trained professional, the recommendation to stop must be complied with.  

Elin Schold Davis has coordinated the American Occupational Therapy Association's (AOTA) Older Driver Initiative since 2003. She is a registered/licensed occupational therapist (OTR/L) and a certified driving rehabilitation specialist (CDRS). Her experience in long term care and adult rehabilitation at The Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Minneapolis, Minnesota, led her to her position with The American Occupational Therapy Association as the Coordinator of the AOTA Older Driver Initiative.

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