That is a very good question! And, just like many things, it depends on who you ask. If you ask the licensing agencies, it is a short 10-15 minute drive when you get your first license. The licensing agency wants to see you control the vehicle and understand the rules of the road. It is best called a driving test. If you ask a driving instructor (who taught the teen taking his first driving test), the they say a driving evaluation takes much longer and involves all possible combination of roadways, intersections and traffic signals. They want to see you handle the vehicle, know all the rules of the road, and make sure you handle all the maneuvers all correctly. No running stops or hands at “10 and 2”! While there is no specific name for this type of driving evaluation, it is often included in driver’s education program. It is important to understand this driving evaluation is covering the operational components (i.e., how to handle the car) and tactical components (i.e., rules of the road) of driving. But neither of these driving evaluations really capture the driving evaluation most important for the older adult driver – the driving evaluation to determine an individual’s current driving fitness.
Driving Fitness: A comprehensive driving evaluation is a complete analysis of your knowledge of the rules of the road, skills/abilities while driving, and knowledge about your health or medical background. It is typically done by an occupational therapist with specialized knowledge in the area of driving rehabilitation. Adults who are aging without complications do not need this kind of specialized evaluation. However, with a new medical condition, injury, or change in your health status, it is always important to consider how these changes affect your everyday activities, including driving.
Where to go: Not all occupational therapists do this kind of evaluation and it may take some searching to find the right person. But the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED)both have lists of these specialists that practice near you. AOTA’s website will include therapists who are Specialty Certified in Driving and Community Mobility – look for these letters – SCDCM. At the ADED website, you will see the Certification for a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist or CDRS. Driving instructors, engineers, or occupational therapists can get receive this certification, so it is important to make sure the provider you select – if you have a medical condition – is also an occupational therapist who understands your specific health condition and needs. Other questions? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.