What Should a Law Enforcement Officer Do?

It is important to recognize and respond to the at-risk senior driver. 

Is the Driver Safe to Continue Operating the Vehicle?
Recognizing cues of at risk older drivers will assist the officer in assessing the continued safe operational needs our NC senior drivers. It is critical to have a verbal dialog with the at risk driver as well as using visual cues to determine if a driving citation and/or driving evaluation is warranted. 

Older adults with beginning cognitive impairment often do not realize their impairment and have good social skills, which mask the impairment.  In other words, in normal conversation impairment may not be obvious and it may require more direct questioning.

Questions/Cues for at a Traffic Encounter of Medically At Risk Driver

  • Does the driver easily offer the current: Time, Day, Month, or Year?
  • Does the driver recall the location from which he or she started the drive?
  • Can the driver describe the route followed to this point?
  • Does the driver know their destination and why they are going there?
  • Can they explain how to get to their destination? Is the driver far from their residence?
  • Does the driver have difficulty communicating?
  • Is the driver’s clothing: messy? Inappropriate for the weather? Exhibits poor hygiene?
  • Does the driver have difficulty finding and removing their driver’s license, vehicle registration, or insurance from a purse or wallet?

What if one or more of the above cues become evident? 

  • For traffic violations, the officer should take appropriate enforcement action.  Remember, this may be the first sign for the family and/or physician to take appropriate action for evaluation of safety issues.
  • Make an inquiry through DCI for a possible “silver alert” (name & DOB, if out of state).
  • Make a medical review referral  (hot link to another page)
  • Suggest a comprehensive driving evaluation with a driver rehabilitation specialist, particularly if there is a family member available.
    • A driver rehabilitation specialist can evaluate a driver’s functional ability to drive on the road safely, this evaluation usually includes visual, perceptive and cognitive screening, and an on-the-road assessment in which the specialist will drive with the client. The specialist typically makes a recommendation as to whether a driver can continue driving, continue driving with modifications or restrictions, or should cease driving altogether.
    • ADED is the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists.   Click here to find driver rehabilitation specialists for North Carolina.
    • AOTA is the American Occupational Therapy Association:  will find occupational therapists who are driving rehabilitation specialists.  This search link is more specific and you can limit it to find specialists who will serve a particular type of client or distance from a specific location.
  • Determine if the driver can safely get to their destination by asking questions.
  • Refer to the Area Agency on Aging for counseling on safe mobility.   
  • If a driver needs to be removed from the roadway:
    • Ask the driver to contact a family member.
    • Contact the medical review board
    • Contact the local community hospital.

If you pull an older driver over you can:

  • Take appropriate enforcement action for any traffic violation
  • Recommend self-restriction of certain kinds of driving: night-time, highway, etc.
  • Suggest a comprehensive driving evaluation with a driver rehabilitation specialist.
  • Make a medical review referral- driver re-examination recommendation (HP-640).
  • If the driver needs to be removed from the roadway (ask the driver to contact a family member or contact the local community hospital)

Refer to Area Agency on Aging for counseling on safe mobility

Road Image