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Does your driving need a tune-up?

Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital December 9, 2016 General Wellness

You’re heading out on a holiday road trip to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. You’ve checked the oil, have a full tank of gas, and put air in the tires. But when was the last time your driving skills had a tune-up? If it’s been awhile, it may be time for a driving assessment.

A driving assessment, offered by a trained professional, is an evaluation of your driving skills that includes an on-the-road test, as well as cognitive, visual, and physical assessments. And while you may think that driving assessments are just for the over-65 crowd, several groups can benefits from a refresher course.

“Driving assessments are not just for older adults,” says Tom Kalina, an occupational therapist and certified driver rehabilitation specialist at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, part of Main Line Health. “Adults who have taken time away from driving due to illness or injury can also benefit from an assessment, as well as drivers with a disability.”

Patients who have taken a break from driving after having a stroke or those who were recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia may benefit from a driving assessment to determine whether or not they are still medically cleared to drive.

Even if you’re healthy, there are still warning signs that it may be time to give your driving a tune-up. Look for signs like these in yourself or in your loved ones that means it may be time for a driving assessment:

  • Slowed reaction time
  • Hearing loss
  • Changes in vision, like vision loss, blurred vision, or difficulty with peripheral vision
  • Diminished flexibility
  • Comments from family, friends or passengers about your driving

“Many people are reluctant to accept critique about their driving ability, but it’s friends and family who are often the first to notice changes,” says Kalina. “If you notice changes in a loved one’s ability to drive safely, approach them about it to have a gentle conversation. If you’re approached about it, see it as an opportunity to sharpen your skills.”

Kalina urges drivers to remember that having a driving assessment doesn’t mean you need to stop driving, either. Instead, you may just need assistive technology or equipment to meet your needs.

“Vehicles can be equipped with assistive devices like pedal extenders, panoramic mirrors, seat lifts, and hand controls that can help keep you on the road and keep you safe,” says Kalina. “Don’t assume that a driving assessment means it’s time to give up your keys.”

If you think that you or a loved one might benefit from a driving assessment, contact your local physical rehabilitation hospital. While community centers and hospitals might offer refresher courses like those available from the AARP, physical rehabilitation hospitals like Bryn Mawr Rehab can assess your driving ability.