Many of us find driving an invaluable way to stay independent as we get older, but illnesses, operations, injuries or just the general effects of aging can make driving more difficult or reduce our confidence on the road. However, there is help available to keep you on the road, even after major life-changing impairments.
Mobility Centres across the country offer driving assessments that will provide individual advice on assistive equipment or vehicle modifications, as well as tuition in driving a modified vehicle, and an assessment is the best way to get expert advice specifically about what you can do.
One of the largest mobility centres in the country is the Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People (QEF) in Carshalton. QEF has a long history of helping people with disabilities, medical conditions or impairments to drive for the first time, but is now increasingly helping older experienced drivers who have acquired a condition that makes driving a bit more challenging to stay on the road too.
Driving tips for older drivers
Paul Graham, a driving expert and occupational therapist at QEF’s Mobility Centre explains: “There are only a few conditions - such as insufficient vision or some types of epilepsy - that absolutely rule people out of driving, for obvious safety reasons, but it’s best if your capability to drive and the right tech or vehicle modifications for you are assessed on an individual basis. If you’re worried about your driving, have had a major operation or have even lost an arm or leg, then the best way to make sure you’re safe to get back on the road is a driving assessment.”
A driving assessment isn’t an exam or test. There’s no pass or fail. It starts with a chat and then a physical and cognitive assessment. Then you’ll have a go on a static driving rig that allows you to try out different car adaptions; this will tell the assessor a lot about whether it’s safe for you to continue driving. The rig measures your reaction time and helps to identify the right type of controls or adaptions for you.
The assessment will also consider other aspects such as pain and fatigue.
Paul Graham explains: “For some people, even with control modifications, it may be that the assessment shows that they can’t continue to drive, or that it will be very difficult or painful. On one hand this could be disappointing, but alternatively it could be seen as a positive outcome as issues will have been identified before they become too much of a problem, and you and your family will have the reassurance of knowing that you can look at safer alternatives.
"It also means that it’s not just about how much effort or willpower you put in – it’ll be down to an objective assessment. Some people tell us that it’s actually a weight off their shoulders and a relief for their families to know that an assessment has shown it’s the right time to stop driving. But for many, many people, it’s absolutely fine to keep driving with some modifications or adjustments.”
To find out more about driving assessments, or for more information about staying on the road after an accident, operation or illness, call the QEF Mobility Centre on 0208 770 1151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if you aren’t in the right location for them to be able to help you directly, they are part of the Driving Mobility network drivingmobility.org.uk and will give you contact information for your nearest assessment provider.