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#1 06-01-13 14:02:47

johnp
Verified Member
From: Dorset
Registered: 04-03-06
Posts: 2,636

Older Driver Assessments

To follow on from the previous thread.
This is the text of an article I was comissioned to write for the Neuropathy Trust following discussions in their magazine.
It is aimed at the general public who don't realise how vulnerable their licences are
and for ADIs to use to stimulate work. I use it as a handout for Stroke/ MS goups.

DO YOU PLAY THE LICENCE LOTTERY?

As young people we were all so excited when we took our Driving Test and received our Licence and presumed that barring a disaster, we could drive for the rest of our lives. That driving licence gave us the FREEDOM to do whatever we wanted to do: freedom to socialise, freedom to work, freedom to indulge in leisure activities, freedom to travel, freedom to care for others. But as we got older it gradually became not just freedom, but an ESSENTIAL, integral part of our existence and it was only then that we discovered that our hold on that licence was in fact very fragile and yet having it gave us the security we needed, so we buried our heads in the sand and hoped that the disaster would never come.

Only too soon we discovered that we needed to drive to visit the doctor or hospital, and just as important was our need to get out of the house in order to meet other people and to stimulate our minds, or to help us deal with loss, or to prevent us becoming depressed, or what we perceived as a burden on society. We not only needed to shop for our everyday provisions, but also to sharpen our decision making to enable us to retain the opportunity for choice. Our driving was in fact an activity which made us part of the outside world. Then dawns the day which can turn our lives upside down when we are requested to take another ‘Test’. Of course it is phrased in the more cryptic terms of ‘Medical Assessment’ or ‘Driving Appraisal’, but we all know what it means.

How would you react? Are you ready to show the driving and medical officials how good you are as a driver, or are you scared that you may be found wanting? Following your accident or illness could you go to an unfamiliar city and without practice, demonstrate your ability to drive a strange car, with bus and cycle lanes, multi-lane roundabouts, 20 mph speed limits and probably on a Motorway? If like me you are over 70 or have been ill, then it is very likely you have joined the Licence Lottery. But it is not like any random lottery because if we prepare beforehand we can sway the odds before the results drop on our mat.

I was a school teacher specialising in teaching students with Specific Needs such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Aspergers, when I became aware of the need to help those who found it difficult to learn to drive under the set Instructional Methods advocated by the Driving Standards Agency. I knew that people learnt better and had fewer accidents when they took ‘ownership’ of their learning early on and so I became an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) and began to write about an educational approach to learning to drive and provided examples of how people often learnt best by developing their skills through multisensory, experiential learning. Although officially my views were thought to be way-out, many practitioners actually understood that they worked and I was contacted by Medics and various Support Services to help their clients who required a different approach to their learning or who required rehabilitation following accident or illness.

Roll the clock forward 20 years and the emphasis of my work changed from mainly teaching the 17 year olds to the 71 year olds. There are over 10 million drivers over 60 of whom 4 million are over 70 and it would be absurd to think that any skill did not need updating after half a century and yet many cling on hoping they will never be re-tested. This is largely out of fear of losing their licences and yet that is exactly the way to stack the lottery odds against them. Some have no idea of the changes which have taken place over the past 50 years and still ‘think’ they are good drivers because they modify their driving according to their abilities. They avoid busy roundabouts or reverse parking or night time driving and when they come to self-certify that they are still fit to drive, they ‘Hope so!’

Then the dreaded letter falls on the mat and they are required to ‘prove’ their ability either as a driver to the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) or of their fitness to drive to the Medical Board of the DVLA (Driver Vehicle Licencing Agency.)This could have been triggered by a notifiable illness or accident, or a doctor or an insurance company, by observations of the police, a concerned relative or neighbour or other road user. A driving misjudgment could imply that their eyesight is not up to standard, or reactions are too slow or their decision making is compromised. All this is valid and I am in no way undermining the decisions made by the various Assessment Agencies, but I see too many who ‘fail’ because they have not kept their driving up to standard, when if they had had revision lessons before their trauma, they may have been able to drive safely for much longer. Failure is often not a result of the illness, but of inexperience and an inability to understand the changes which have been taking place over the years. There are those however who should be made to give up their licences earlier who cause death and mayhem on our roads and this is where again it is a lottery.

Don’t compare yourself with the standards of other drivers who still have their licences and have got away with it for a long time. When did you last read the Highway Code or the DSA Theory Book? When did you last have your eyes examined or checked that you can still read a number plate at 20 metres? When did you last cause confusion by unnecessarily indicating to pass a parked car? Are your indications correct and accurately timed when navigating lanes on roundabouts? The story I so often hear is “I did not know that, I was never good at reversing, my husband used to do the driving, I have never seen that sign before,” followed by; “If only I had known about you before I was referred!"

Those experiencing illness or over 70 must actively take control of their licences. Don’t let the DVLA ruin your lives, so be proactive and not just vocal or unrealistic. Let me give you a few typical examples;

-two ladies needed a car to transport the equipment for the U3A course they taught, but the driver could no longer sign to say her eyesight was legal to continue driving. The 75 year old non-driver came for lessons and within a few months had a first time pass and both were able to continue to follow the activities which had become an important part of their lives:

-wife came for refresher lessons because husband was ill and so was able to care for and visit him in hospital which necessitated negotiating busy roundabouts and reverse parking:

-a widow’s right- leg paralysis meant she could no longer take the grandchildren out in the car, so a left foot accelerator was fitted and after retraining in an automatic she was able to resume driving.

Wherever possible the answer should be positive, but if it is left to HOPE it usually becomes negative and the joy of LIFE may be lost.

So how can you receive help from Driving Instructors who specialise and are able to build on your many years of life experiences without patronising you? I have tabulated details in my latest book, ‘Driving is Challenging and Important for Older Drivers,’ but I am also trying to raise an awareness of this Need to bring Instructors and Older Drivers together. Most of mine come through recommendations from people I have helped previously or through referrals from Consultants, GPs, Physio/Occupational Therapists, Hairdressers, so ask around. The Queen Elizabeth Foundation can provide you with a list of instructors who have been on their courses and your Local Authority may also have a list of Instructors who help in their Road Safety Department. It is essential that you feel free to seek informal advice from an ADI rather than have any fear of a Test, since following a formal referral, drivers can feel cheated if they receive a ‘TEST’ when they were expecting helpful advice.

I believe the DVLA /DSA can do a dis-service to the Road Safety of Older Drivers because if there is a fear of licence removal, the message gets around and drivers who need HELP may not seek it and just HOPE instead. Hope can be a serious Road Safety Issue since we must all be able to say, “I KNOW my skills are up to present day standards and I am a safe driver.”

We can’t prevent the inevitable, but we can prepare for the probable and so stack the odds in our favour in this Licence Lottery.


Driving is books-
1. "safe and responsible INDEPENDENCE."
2. "DISABILITY into ABILITY" 
3. "PSYCHOLOGY than SYSTEMS.
www.drivingincludesu.co.uk

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