‘What has drawing a clock and remembering an address
got to do with actual driving on the road?’
This is a question I was asked at a recent 60s-Up presentation.
And it’s a good question!
One of the things I do at my Brainfit® classes is teach people like you about the different types of memory – there’s a lot going on in your brain 24 / 7.
Yes, even while you are asleep!
Let’s see what’s going on when you are driving.
When you are in the car, your brain is working overtime to make sense of everything from road conditions, weather, pedestrians, destination, directions, speed limits, cars in front and behind: you get the idea! And that’s all at the same time as steering, foot pedals, mirrors, safety, overtaking, judging speed and distance, the things you do without thinking about them.
And there’s a big difference between the automatic process of start, drive, park and stop, and the continual cognitive requirements of looking around you. It can be very tiring mentally, so do allow time for stops and refreshments on longer trips.
Driving the car is the easy bit: you’ve been doing it for umpteen years and sometimes you arrive at a place without any conscious effort – it’s a habit, almost. And that automatic action comes from the cerebellum, the back of your brain where basic actions such as walking, balance, breathing and digestion (yes, that’s going on all the time too!) are practiced until they don’t need any effort.
So what the Doctor is testing you for is a different sort of memory.
First is Working Memory – this is what happens in the moment – it lets you look in the rear-view mirror but keep driving straight ahead.
Next is Short-Term Memory – speed limits, road positions relative to you, zebra crossings coming up and so on.
Then Long-term Memory tells you where to go – it’s the lived experience of been there, done that.
Combining all three is mental agility – how quickly can you think and respond to a driving situation?
This is why the Doctor asks you to draw a clock – can you remember how? Or remember an address for a few minutes? Or name at least 14 words beginning with F in one minute– that’s mental agility.
It’s all related to your driving skills. So, if the doctor suggests it’s time to hang up the keys because you can’t name a camel, a penguin or an anchor, believe me, he knows best.
If losing your glasses or car keys and forgetting if you’ve closed the garage door are familiar annoyances, you might like to think about signing up for a Brainfit® class. We learn strategies for everyday life, regardless of age.
And we have a lot of laughs while we do it!
Stay warm and take care,
Bobbie Bryce, Accredited Brainfit® Coach
Taupo, New Zealand
Ph 027 255 4979
Do share your comments about the medical test you take with your Doctor. Or your driving experiences? They are so helpful for others.
The car licence memory test begins with a list of 10 words (unrelated nouns) which are read at a not-too-fast rate. These have to be recalled immediately.
After that one is asked to draw a clock, list items in a supermarket (at speed), etc etc.
Then, when all these (easier) exercises are completed, one is required to recall the 10 words,
Last time I could remember only 2.
That was not good enough.
For this reason alone one can be denied permission to have one’s licence renewed.
None of us understand why this particular test, alone, has such great importance.
You are able to have additional testing, costing $550 which may get you your licence.
Once you’ve reached 80 years you have to renew your licence every 2 years.
This test can feel quite challenging, I know. And as you will see in Bobbie Bryce’s article, there are serious reasons for being sure that cognition is appropriate for driving. It doesn’t stop us from practising in advance though! And you gave a really good tip in your comment – deliberately focus on that list of words – use your association and repetition skills to keep them in mind even though other things are being asked of you. Maintaining active awareness during the whole assessment is the secret.
Hi Gillian, renewed my Driving Licence early last June,2022, was given a man’s name and address in Drury, he lived in Churchill. St then an eye sight test, drew a clock and from memory had to place the hands showing a specific time and at the end of it I was asked the man’s name and address., also a number of questions Ie: Who is the reigning Monarch? When was the 1st world war.?
My car rego is MSF My Sun Flower 628 – 6+2=8.
Well done – your memory is serving you very well! I’m delighted that you are doing all that you can to keep your memory sharp.