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Your doctor is your driving partner

Created date

April 22nd, 2014

Maintaining our independence is the number one priority for all age groups and a primary way we achieve this is through owning and driving a car. While motor vehicles are a wonderful boon to us all and part of the American dream, they also come with risk and responsibility. 

As you age, your driving skills may decline and it is critical to strike the appropriate balance between autonomy, independence, and driver safety. Fortunately, there are ways to take stock of how you are doing behind the wheel, address concerns, and feel confident that your decisions keep you and those around you safe. 

Many factors contribute to driver safety and a good place to start your evaluation is with your physician. You discuss concerns about your physical health with your doctor at each visit, but do you ever consider engaging us in a discussion about whether or not you should get behind the wheel?

Down the road

Although we are not riding along with you, the doctors you see regularly may be able to help you avoid future accidents. We are in an ideal position to detect factors that might interfere with your driving abilities such as problems with cognition, movement, vision, hearing, or even judgment. Any of these deficits could be due to diagnosed or undiagnosed medical problems, or they could be related to medications or their side effects.

Based on examination findings, your doctor can make adjustments in your treatments or change your medications to help you return to your best level of health and functioning. We can give you our opinion about your driving safety, or, if needed, suggest an evaluation by a driver rehabilitation specialist or a road test by the motor vehicle administration. We may also suggest having a family member or close friend ride with you or behind you to see how well you do. 

If you, your family, and health care providers find reason for concern, there may be a number of steps you can take short of stopping driving altogether to improve safety, including changing your pattern and limiting excursions, addressing risk factors such as poor vision, and undergoing classroom instruction through agencies such as AAA or AARP. Please don’t avoid addressing the issue for fear that you may lose your license or be asked to stop driving. You may actually find you can improve your confidence and skills by reviewing your abilities and getting help. If it does look like it’s time to relinquish your keys, your doctor can recommend community resources that will help you obtain safe transportation, and you will be reassured that you and those around you are safe.

We all find great joy and independence in driving, but it comes with great responsibility to do all we can to protect you, your passengers, and the other drivers on the road.

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