Guest post by Marie Clark
For most seniors, driving is a key to the independence they want to hold onto for as long as possible. However, it is important when to know when it’s time to stop driving. It’s not just for your parent’s safety, it is important for everyone else on the road. It is often difficult for the aging to accept the fact that they can’t drive safely.
Research studies have shown that elderly are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents than younger drivers. So, how does an older driver or a concerned family member know it is time to hang up the car keys?
Chronological age alone does not determine if someone is capable of driving carefully or not, but for older people age-related changes in vision, reflexes and physical abilities slowly creep up over the years and can greatly influence the ability to drive safely. The following areas are some of the causes for inhibiting your driving skills.
- Physical fitness – if you have poor muscle strength it can be difficult to steer and maneuver the steering wheel, or shift your head to check blind spots before shifting lanes.
- Slower reflexes will cause you to take a longer time to react to unexpected behavior from other motorists and pedestrians, and traffic signals.
- Side effects of medications – older people take more prescription and over-the-counter medicines that might interact with one another or cause confusion while driving.
- Loss of clarity in vision or hearing.
Tips for Family Members
If you are concerned that your older family member’s driving is dangerous, watch for the following telltale signs that signal a decline in their driving abilities.
- Do they have difficulty in turning their head, neck, or body while driving or parking?
- Do not have enough strength to turn the wheel quickly in case of an emergency?
- Become angry and frustrated easily while driving?
- Do they fail to yield to pedestrians or motorists who have right of the way?
- Do they get lost in familiar neighborhoods?
- Do they find it difficult to drive with glare from oncoming vehicles, or other bright or shiny objects?
- Have had one or more accidents or near misses recently?
State Laws on Older Drivers
In the United States, many state laws set strict standards for older drivers including:
- Shorter renewal periods for older drivers.
- Requiring older drivers to renew their licenses in person only.
- Administering vision, road or written tests for renewal of licenses.
Different states have different laws, but if the testing authorities are unsatisfied with the performance of older drivers, it may be necessary for you to get a medical evaluation for license renewal.
Getting and Keeping The Keys
- First, approach your elderly family member with your concerns about their driving abilities before it is too late.
- Convince the person by preparing a checklist of your observations that include their medical condition, poor eyesight, slower reflexes, recollection of familiar routes, etc.
- Ask their closest friends and advisors for support. They might doubt you but believe the family lawyer, doctor or religious leader.
- Cut out news articles about senior related accidents and start a discussion. Plant the seed of a thought now.
- Get help from family, friends, and neighbors to run errands for the older person.
- Use shuttle services that are often provided by senior centers and retirement communities to assist with shopping and hospital visits.
- “Break the car” by unplugging some vital wires if the person does not willingly hand over the car keys to you.
- Hide the car keys and stop them from driving. By doing so, the caregiver is protecting the elderly person and others on the road.
For more information on elder care and senior safety, including reviews of senior care products like medical alerts, please visit ElderKind.com. Safety is everyone’s concern, whether it’s at home or on the road.