Family physicians' attitudes and practices regarding assessments of medical fitness to drive in older persons

J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Apr;22(4):531-43. doi: 10.1007/s11606-006-0043-x.


Background: Higher crash rates per mile driven in older drivers have focused attention on the assessment of older drivers.

Objective: To examine the attitudes and practices of family physicians regarding fitness-to-drive issues in older persons.

Design: Survey questionnaire.

Participants: The questionnaire was sent to 1,000 randomly selected Canadian family physicians. Four hundred sixty eligible physicians returned completed questionnaires.

Measurements: Self-reported attitudes and practices towards driving assessments and the reporting of medically unsafe drivers.

Results: Over 45% of physicians are not confident in assessing driving fitness and do not consider themselves to be the most qualified professionals to do so. The majority (88.6%) feel that they would benefit from further education in this area. About 75% feel that reporting a patient as an unsafe driver places them in a conflict of interest and negatively impacts on the patient and the physician-patient relationship. Nevertheless, most (72.4%) agree that physicians should be legally responsible for reporting unsafe drivers to the licensing authorities. Physicians from provinces with mandatory versus discretionary reporting requirements are more likely to report unsafe drivers (odds ratio [OR], 2.78; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.58 to 4.91), but less likely to perform driving assessments (OR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.39 to 0.85). Most driving assessments take between 10 and 30 minutes, with much variability in the components included.

Conclusions: Family physicians lack confidence in performing driving assessments and note many negative consequences of reporting unsafe drivers. Education about assessing driving fitness and approaches that protect the physician-patient relationship when reporting occurs are needed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Automobile Driving* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Automobile Driving* / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician's Role* / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians, Family* / psychology