By many measures, seniors are safe drivers due to their years of experience behind the wheel and their greater likelihood of abiding with speed limits and other traffic laws. For example, nearly 93 percent of Wisconsin drivers age 60 or older wear seat belts – the highest percentage of any age group.
But conservative driving behavior isn't always a positive thing. A significant portion of older driver crashes involve rear-end collisions because seniors tend to drive at or below the speed limit. Left turns are a challenge for all motorists, but especially for aging drivers.
The reality is that as people age, there is a corresponding decline in our physical capabilities such as vision, reaction times and ability to judge the speed and distance of approaching traffic. It’s important that older drivers be aware of these inevitable changes and limitations - and be willing to adjust and re-sharpen their safe driving skills. Aging drivers should be mindful of changes in vision, physical fitness, reflexes and how medications might impact their ability to drive safely.
What to do if your health care provider wants you to test
Your healthcare provider can do several things that may affect your ability to drive, such as:
- Recommend testing to verify through driving tests that you are safe to drive. The tests include sign, knowledge and skills (road) tests.
- Add restrictions to a license or remove restrictions if the driver’s condition improves.
- Examples of some acceptable restrictions include:
- Daylight Driving Only
- 15-mile radius of home (any distance can be designated)
- No freeway or interstate driving
- Examples of unacceptable restrictions include (these are not enforceable):
- Driving with someone else in the car (drivers must be able to operate independently)
- Must check blood sugars before driving
- No rush hour or long-distance driving
- Recommend cancellation of a license if the driver’s medical condition is such that it does not support safe driving.
Steps to follow
- Your medical professional will need to complete either a Driver Condition or Behavior Report (MV3141) or a Medical Examination Report form (MV3644) so that the DMV understands your medical condition and what their concerns are. They could also send a letter (on their letterhead) to explain the situation and what they recommend. Remember, your diagnosis alone is not as important as how the condition affects your ability to function as a driver.
- DMV will send you a letter on WisDOT letterhead explaining the steps you should take. In Wisconsin, a driver license can only be immediately cancelled when a medical professional (MD, DO, PA-C, or APNP) reports or supplies information to the DMV indicating that a driver is unsafe to drive.
- If you are required to test, review current laws and rules of the road, then take the tests. Review:
Again, if you are asked to do DMV tests, all the information about what to do and where to go will be in the letter that the DMV sends to you.
What to do if you want to sharpen your driving skills on your own
There are several resources available for you to explore if you are interested in refreshing your driving skills, including:
- Reporting an unsafe driver – information for medical professionals, law enforcement officers or citizens to use when they have concerns about someone’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle
- Medical condition – information about how your medical condition could affect safe driving