Cognitive Testing of Older Drivers
I am often asked about driver testing, particularly now that some older drivers are being given cognitive testing as part of the mandatory medical evaluation at and after age 80. This is called the SIMARD test and was developed at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It allows the doctor or their medical staff to quickly and accurately identify people who are having cognitive difficulty that would compromise safe driving.
The first of four parts has the examiner slowly read a list of ten words to the subject. When all the words have been read, the person is asked to repeat as many of those words, in any order. Once completed, the task is done for a second time using the same word list.
Part two is a number conversion exercise. The subject is given a sheet of paper with a column of numbers and asked to write the numbers in words. An example of the task is seeing the number 5 and writing the word five.
The third challenge is to name as many items as possible that are sold in a supermarket within one minute. The maximum score is achieved by mentioning 30 distinct items.
Finally, we return to the word list in part one for the final test. The subject is asked to recall as many of the words read to them in part one as they are able to.
While this may seem trivial to you and me, it gives the medical examiner a proven yardstick to apply to their patients and fairly assess the driver. Many people are able to mask cognitive impairment during a routine medical visit and the SIMARD test helps the doctor be confident of their decision whether or not to recommend further testing and possible driving sanctions.