Drive Safe Program

For many older adults, driving is a symbol of freedom and independence, and represents the ability to maintain connections and actively participate in the community. However, driving abilities can change over time due to declining vision, decreased strength, stiff joints, slowed reaction times, medical conditions or medication usage. 

Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among 65 to 74 year olds and are the second leading cause, after falls, among 75 to 84 year olds. Many people are hesitant to raise concerns about their own or their loved one’s driving because they fear a loss of independence.
 

Our Program
The Drive Safe Program serves adult drivers who hold or previously have held a driver’s license and are experiencing changes due to medical conditions, trauma, surgery, neurological incidents or aging. The first part of the comprehensive driving evaluation is conducted in the clinic. During the clinical assessment, an occupational therapist tests the physical, cognitive and visual skills that are needed for driving. Rules of the road and driving safety knowledge are also reviewed.

Clients who demonstrate the underlying skills for driving proceed with the next step in the driving evaluation process - an on-road assessment with a licensed driving instructor in a specially equipped vehicle. The on-road assessment evaluates the client’s performance in real traffic situations. The results of the on-road assessment are combined with the clinical assessment to determine fitness to drive.

Client and family/caregiver education about driving with specific medical conditions, planning for the future, and community resources is an integral part of the Drive Safe program.

Frequently Asked Questions


How are referrals made?

  • A physician’s prescription for a “Driving Evaluation” is required and should include the client’s diagnosis or the reason why he/she is being referred. The prescription may be faxed to 617-243-6651 or brought to the first appointment.
  • Clients, family members or physicians can schedule an appointment by calling the Department of Rehabilitation Services at 617-243-6172.
What happens on the day of my driving evaluation?
The clinical evaluation will take one and a half to two hours to complete. At the end of the evaluation, the occupational therapist will review the results and recommendations concerning driving ability with the client and family, if present. Clients who demonstrate the underlying skills for driving will be provided with the necessary information to proceed with the on-road assessment. The on-road assessment will take place on another day with the driving instructor.


Clients who are not ready to proceed with the on-road assessment will be provided with recommendations and resources to improve readiness. These recommendations may include but are not limited to: occupational therapy, physical therapy, consultations with vision or medical specialists, training with assistive driving devices or enrolling in a mature driving program.

When the driving evaluation indicates that the client should not continue driving, the occupational therapist discusses alternative transportation options that enable independence and participation in valued daily activities.

What should I bring to my evaluation?
Clients are asked to bring the following items with them on the day of the evaluation:
  • Doctor’s order (if it has not already been sent)
  • Driver’s license
  • A list of current medications
  • Corrective lenses (for both reading and distance)
  • Payment for the evaluation
In addition, clients are asked to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to their scheduled appointment. Clients who have completed the NWH Rehab Medical Status Questionnaire may arrive 15 minutes prior.

How do I pay for my Drive Safe evaluation?
Drive Safe is a fee-for-service program. The clinical evaluation fee is $225. Payment is expected at the time of the evaluation. The fee for the on-road assessment is set by the driving instructor’s company and is payable at the time of that evaluation. Most insurance companies do not pay for driving evaluations or training. Clients are encouraged to check their insurance plans for coverage and reimbursement guidelines.

Where do the results go?
The occupational therapist will send a report to the referring physician and any other requested or necessary parties. The report summarizes the results of the evaluation and the therapist’s recommendations. If a client does not follow a recommendation to stop driving, a report can be sent to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Please Note: the Drive Safe Program is not affiliated with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and does not have the authority to revoke a driver’s license.

What are the Registry of Motor Vehicle requirements?
The RMV Medical Affairs Policy states: “It is a customer's responsibility to report any medical condition that may affect his/her ability to operate a motor vehicle. If a customer has a medical condition which he/she believes may affect his/her ability to operate, he/she must report the condition to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and not operate a motor vehicle until the condition is resolved. A customer is legally responsible for his/her actions behind the wheel. There are no mandatory reporting laws for health care providers to report persons who may be unsafe to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.”

If you or your physician are uncertain if your medical condition renders you unable to safely operate a motor vehicle, you will benefit from a Drive Safe evaluation.

Tips for Safe Travel on the Road
  • Adjust the driver’s seat so that your chest is 10 inches or more from the steering wheel.
  • Adjust your sitting posture by moving the steering wheel, adjusting your seat or sitting on a cushion to get your eyes at least three inches higher than the top of the steering wheel.
  • Always adjust your side-view mirrors to minimize the “blind spot” in the rear of the vehicle.
  • If left turns are a problem, try planning a route with more right turns and minimize or eliminate left turns.
  • If busy road traffic presents a problem, try planning an outing during quieter times such as the middle of the day on a weekday.
  • When you start taking a new medicine, ask your physician or pharmacist about side effects. Many medications may affect your driving even when you feel fine. If your medication makes you dizzy or drowsy, talk to your physician to find out ways to take your medicine so it doesn’t affect your driving.
Contact Us
The Drive Safe Program is located at the Newton-Wellesley Ambulatory Care Center, 159 Wells Avenue, in Newton.

Debra Kerrigan, MS, OTR/L
Drive Safe Program - Department of Rehabilitation Services
Newton-Wellesley Ambulatory Care Center
159 Wells Avenue
Newton, MA 0249
Phone: 617-243-6172 | Fax: 617-243-6651 | Email

 

 

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