Do you have a parent that won’t let go of the car keys? Are you worried about how safe you are to drive but don’t want to lose your independence? The range of attitudes about driving go from handing over the keys without a fuss to declaring that you’ll get the keys when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. There’s got to be a middle ground somewhere but every family worries for at least a time about whether or not Mom or Dad are safe on the road.
Medical conditions and medications can change a safe driver into an unsafe driver regardless of age. Many people suggest that you get the doctor involved but many doctors aren’t too keen to get in the middle of a vitriolic family discussion about something as personal as driving. One option is to take yourself or your family member somewhere to get a driving assessment.
Channa Beckman from Harbor Speech Pathology says that the benefit to having a driving assessment is that if removing the keys becomes a necessity, people respond better if they have a specific aspect that makes their driving unsafe. They’d rather hear that their reaction time isn’t quick enough or that their attention field is too narrow for instance rather than they are unsafe and an assessment tool can provide that information.
Beckman uses a cognitive assessment tool called DriveABLE. It’s an exam that every driver in British Columbia must pass and in the States the costs are usually covered by medical insurance. Even if your insurance won’t cover the cost, the test is very reasonable (under $200).
DriveABLE is a science-based evaluation originally given to over 5,000 subjects. When researchers analyzed the error types, they found 13 different categories. They then took those categories and broke them down into six tasks that look at things such as reaction time, attention field and executive function.
Those conditions can be associated with cognitive, cardiovascular, metabolic and diabetes for instance. Some situations such as epilepsy, which have medical conditions that wax and wane, have episodic outcomes that might make all out banning from driving an excessive option.
One thing that family members don’t always take into consideration is that the driver might actually pass the exam. One of Beckman’s clients had suffered a stroke. He and his family were concerned that the stroke would eliminate his ability to drive. After spending time getting assessed, he passed with flying colors and is back on the road. But he feels safer knowing that his medical condition didn’t unduly affect his driving and they feel more comfortable with his decision to return to driving.
The DriveABLE test compares drivers to others in their same age bracket. This is important because it is a computer test and many older people worry that they will do poorly because of their unfamiliarity with computers but Beckman said she didn’t find it to be a problem for her clients as they aren’t manipulating computer tools such as a mouse and the playing field so to speak is level.
Here is a list of driving assessment tools in the Seattle-Tacoma area. They don’t all use the same test format so if you are thinking about using one of them be sure to ask them how they determine whether or not a driver is safe.
Valley Medical Center-Rehab Services in Renton (425) 228-3440 ext 5165
Assistive Technology Solutions in Issaquah 425) 373-1315
University of Washington Medical Center Rehabilitation Medicine (206) 598-4830
Northwoods Lodge in Silverdale (360) 337-7422
CHC Services in Mountlake Terrace (206) 854-0309
Harbor Speech Pathology 253-851-0007