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The value of off-road driving assessment for elderly driving safety


For many of us, a driving license represents our freedom. It’s understandable then, the concern that sets in when an individual may not be cognitively, physically or mentally fit to drive. Particularly when they are in their old age and have been driving most of their lives.

As crucial as the safety of our roads are, it’s undeniable that taking someone’s driving license from them is a significant event. And feelings can be heightened when the client is impaired.

That’s why it’s important to get it right but, in many cases, the avenues for testing a person’s driving ability are limited. On-road assessments are costly, time-consuming and in some cases, can be demoralising.

A solution has emerged, one that revolves around testing an individual’s cognitive capacity for driving, without entering the road.

DriveSafe DriveAware (DSDA) is an objective, evidence-based measure of cognitive fitness to drive that accurately predicts the driving ability of elderly or cognitively impaired patients.

The driving tool is broken down into three subtests: DriveSafe, which involves identifying and recalling hazards at various intersections; DriveAware, which measures self-rating and everyday driving, against actual test performance and the clinician’s rating; and Intersection Rules, an optional subtest to test for the client’s knowledge of ‘right of way’ at intersections.

The test takes approximately ten minutes to administer and is being used by health professionals as a cost-effective precursor to on-road driving assessments.

Clinical Lead Occupational Therapist (OT) and Driver Trained Occupational Therapist at Lime Therapy in Melbourne, Lynette Preston, uses DSDA in her everyday role and has found it to be an incredibly valuable part of her off-road assessment.

“Our non-driver trained Occupational Therapists use DSDA across the inpatient and community programs that we deliver OT services in, to guide GPs and other medical professionals’ decision making around return to driving, following a period of illness or injury, and the need for referral to a Driver Trained OT,” she said.

“DSDA presents a really good opportunity to try and support the individual, by having an understanding around how their condition may be affecting, or impacting upon their ability to drive.”

Professor Joseph Ibrahim, Head of the Health Law and Ageing Research Unit at Monash University, said that it was his understanding that there are not many instruments that are reliable for off-road driving assessment.

“We normally use these tools to inform the patient about the likelihood that they might pass an on-road assessment, because the on-road assessments are quite expensive,” he said.

“Being able to talk to them about their diagnosis, their functional state, what their concerns are, and to have something that is reliable, is important.”

Evaluating an elderly person’s ability to drive, and having accurate data and information to corroborate that evaluation, is difficult, and DSDA provides a quick, cost-effective alternative to on-road assessments.

Learn more about DriveSafe DriveAware and get a free trial at pearsonclinical.com.au/DSDA



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