Every year throughout the first week in December, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) celebrates Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (ODSAW) to promote an understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation to older adults. NADTC is thrilled to join AOTA in this celebration. Earlier this week we participated in a Twitter chat with other experts to answer questions, provide resources and share information (You can view the Twitter chat by visiting Twitter.com and searching for #ODSAWchat). We continue to observe ODSAW today on the blog with a post about restrictions on driving and transition from driving. Read more below!
Driver’s License Restrictions Targeting Older Drivers
While we recognize the critical importance of maintaining a driving license to older adults’ independence, especially in areas with limited transportation, concerns about safety have resulted in the enactment of more stringent licensing laws that apply to older drivers in many states. Although all states have minimum age limits on when one can begin to drive, no state has an age limit on when an individual can no longer drive. However, some states have enacted laws that, based on one’s age, shorten the time of license renewal and/or how that renewal is done. For example, the license renewal period for adults may be every 8 years in a state, but past the age of 60, it is every 5 years. Also, while a state may allow most drivers to renew their licenses online, they may require someone 65 or older to renew in person. Other states have no legal restrictions that apply to older adults’ possession of a driver’s license. To get the most accurate and up-to-date information on the current law in your state, it is best to search the website or contact your state’s Department of Transportation (or equivalent, since names vary). In addition, you can get a summary of nation-wide laws and resources through some of the links provided below.
Planning for Transportation Independence
At some point it may be necessary for you or a loved one to give up the keys. As we age, certain changes can make driving, a complex skill, increasingly difficult. These changes include a decline in vision, hearing, flexibility and strength (keep in mind, though, that these changes are not the same from one individual to another, and they do not happen at the same age in each person). Giving up the keys can have a negative impact on older adults’ lives, resulting in fewer trips to the doctor, the grocery store social outings and increased isolation in their homes. Last year, NADTC staff worked with the Eldercare Locator to develop a helpful guide called Before You Give Up the Keys. If you or a loved one is concerned about the ability to continue to drive safely consider these actions that can help ease the transition from driving.
- Develop a mobility plan that includes alternatives to driving. This can include a list of available transportation options like the public bus, train, walking, biking, or even riding with friends.
- Try out new transportation options such as taking the bus or using a taxi. You may find that even if you are not ready to give up the keys, these options could be helpful for trips at night or in areas with difficult parking. For a list of available transportation options, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (Find your local Area Agency on Aging here). They may have list of community transportation options or refer you to another local organization that has one.
- Participate in a Travel Training Course. If you find that you are hesitant to try a new transportation option, consider signing up for a travel training course. Travel training aims to help people use new forms of transportation by providing them with the instruction and skills necessary to travel safely and independently. This instruction may be one-on-one or in groups, but it can make you more comfortable using an option that you are unfamiliar with. Again, your local Area Agency on Aging can often help you find a program in your community, as well as the local transit provider.
- Consult with a Driving Rehabilitation Specialist. Part of your mobility plan might include a communication with a professional who can help you sharpen your driving skills. Typically a Driving Rehabilitation Specialist is an Occupational Therapist who has been trained to focus specifically on driving. They may suggest some changes to your seat, mirrors, or driving behavior to keep you on the road longer. You can locate a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist by contacting the American Occupational Therapy Association at www.aota.org/olderdriver.
- Eldercare Locator: eldercare.gov or 1-800-677-1116 (available 9am – 8pm EST, M-F)
- Before You Give Up the Keys, An Eldercare Locator Publication
- American Occupational Therapy Association
- The National Conference of State Legislatures has various resources, publications, and studies on senior drivers.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures, Traffic Safety Trends, State Legislative Action 2015. p.13, 47-48. http://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/Documents/transportation/2015_Traffic_Safety_Trends.pdf
- Governors Highway Safety Association