The driving ability of older generations is not always an easy topic for patients and their families. David Carr, MD, associate professor of medicine and neurology and clinical director for the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science, is applying leading medical research and health evaluations in a program designed to provide families a scientific foundation for their discussions. Carr is medical director of the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis, which offers the Driving Connections Clinic.
“As we age, our physical and mental abilities may decline, affecting our skills behind the wheel of a vehicle. Because these changes can be so gradual, we might not be aware we are no longer a safe driver,” Carr says. “Common medical impairments that lead to concerns include dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury, glaucoma, macular degeneration and Parkinson’s disease. Amputees are also seen at the clinic for equipment modifications.”
Founded in 2008, the clinic includes off-road testing for visual, cognitive and motor abilities. A 45-minute road evaluation is also conducted in a car with dual brakes. Following the assessment, driving recommendations are provided to the patient, his or her family and the doctor in a sensitive manner.
Carr also has several studies underway regarding geriatric care. The clinic recently finished a study on the driving abilities of dementia and stroke patients, and will soon begin research on visual impairments and Parkinson’s. “We hope to come up with off-road tools with predictive value regarding driving safety,” Carr says. “If we can characterize sample groups, we can have quicker, more definitive insight into who can keep driving, even without testing them behind the wheel.”