A driver’s license represents a sense of personal freedom and independence, and for many young people, it’s a rite of passage. However, older adults often have difficulty knowing when it’s time to voluntarily give up their driving privileges. Losing control of a vehicle due to confusion or panic can result in a catastrophic car accident, so it’s important to address any perceived driving problems quickly. While there are no hard and fast rules relating to seniors and driving, here are some tips to consider when talking to an older adult about driving, safety and possibly giving up the keys.
Plan for the Discussion in Advance
Elderly people are constantly facing challenges that result in the loss of freedom, so they tend to be very inflexible when it comes to driving. Since it’s often taken for granted, people usually fail to recognize just how much of a factor driving plays in someone’s overall quality of life. Any discussion with a senior about driving should be planned well in advance. The process will likely include several discussions, so it’s important to maintain reasonable expectations. Try and arrange to talk during a quiet time of day, and remember that the decision is ultimately up to the person who will be relinquishing the keys.
Developing a Health Assessment
Older drivers are usually very safe, but there can be physical changes that affect driving skills as we age. When muscles weaken and joints stiffen, it can become difficult to back up, check the blind spot or brake properly. Eyesight and hearing may also be affected. Older adults often need better lighting to see at night and are more unsettled by glare. Peripheral vision narrows as we age, and vision problems from eye disease can impact driving skills. Always try and confirm that an older driver is in good health, and check to see if any prescribed medication they are taking will alter their driving skills.
Evaluating Driving Skills
Prior to any driving-related discussions, it’s important to ride with an elderly driver to quietly assess their skill level. Look for the following signs that might indicate there is some sort of impairment:
* Frequently almost having car accidents
* Getting lost on familiar roads
* A growing number of dents and scrapes on the vehicle, tire rims and garage doors
* Responding slowly to rapidly developing situations
* Difficulty seeing traffic signs and pavement markings
* Difficulty turning around when backing up
* An unusual number of tickets or warnings
Finding Other Forms of Transportation
Helping an older person transition from driving to the use of alternate forms of transportation can relieve a lot of the stress and anxiety they may be feeling. Taxi services, carpools, ridesharing services and buses can all offer viable transportation options. Civic groups and religious organizations often have volunteers willing to provide free rides. Once an elderly person realizes that they can continue to live a full life without driving, the transition will be much easier.