How Old Is Too Old To Get Behind The Wheel Of A Car?
As adult children struggle over when to take their parents’ car keys, a new study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center suggests drivers over the age of 90 are at no greater risk on the road as elders a decade younger.
As the number of nonagenarians grows faster than the overall elder population – and many adults in the age group escape increased illness and disability – the desire to remain independent and retain self-esteem also increases. The ability to remain on the road is an important benchmark of independence.
In a study of 88 participants in BIDMC’s DriveWise® program, published online in Traffic Injury Prevention, researchers found that drivers between 90 and 97 who completed comprehensive driving evaluations were at no greater driving risk than those between 80 and 87. The evaluation included a Trail Making Test, the Mini Mental State Examination, brake reaction time and an hour long road test.
“In the office setting it is often difficult for physicians to identify which older drivers would benefit from a comprehensive driving evaluation,” says Margaret G. O’Connor, PhD, Director of Neuropsychology in the Division of Behavioral Neurology and Center for Cognitive Neurology at BIDMC. “This is particularly challenging in the case of the oldest old who may be perceived as a high risk purely in the basis of age. Identification of relevant screening measures is therefore of tremendous clinical importance.”
BIDMC’s DriveWise program® offers an objective evaluation of driving safety for people of all ages who have experienced neurological, psychological and/or physical impairments.
Co-author Ann Hollis, OTR/L, an occupation therapist with DriveWise, says this study, the first of its kind involving people over 90, also suggests “simple orientation questions may be useful to assist in the identification of which oldest old drivers would benefit from a comprehensive driving evaluation.”
Co-authors include: Athene K.W. Lee, MA; Lissa R. Kapust, LICSW; Laura K. Phillips, PhD and Jennifer Wolkin, PhD, all from the BIDMC Department of Neurology.
There were no reported funding sources or conflicts-of-interest.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.org.