Therapists working with older drivers to increase safety awareness

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The government says your chances of being involved in a deadly traffic accident sharply increase after you turn 70 years old. That’s why occupational therapists are working to increase awareness of driving problems caused by aging and disease.

Older drivers spend less time behind the wheel, but age related declines in vision, mobility and reaction times can make older drivers a hazard on the roads.
70-year-old Phyllis Town suffered a stroke while driving back in March.

The experience scared her. She doesn’t want to cause an accident or hurt anyone while driving, so she’s yet to get back behind the wheel.

Instead, she’s part of a unique driver training program for older adults at the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City.

“I don’t think people realize how they get into a situation where they can’t drive as well as they used to,” Town said. “You don’t realize you’re getting old until you get there.”

Phyllis receives physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy to improve the skills she needs to drive. She also goes out with an instructor, driving in parking lots to build up her confidence.

The law does not require this type of therapy and training so older drivers can keep their licenses. In Missouri, once you reach 70, a driver’s license must be renewed every three years. In Kansas, those 65 and older must get re-tested every four years.

Americans For Older Driver Safety think that’s too long. They’d like to see license renewals every two years once a driver reaches age 70.

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