Seniors and Driving?
According to the Federal Highway Administration, drivers over the age of 70 cause more vehicular deaths than every other age group, except for drivers under the age of 20. Clearly there is a need to be attentive to the driving abilities of our aging friends or family. What should you do if you feel you need to take the keys for the safety of your loved one and for the safety of others? Driving is so closely connected to a feeling of independence and freedom, even broaching the subject can be highly emotional.
It will help to have other options for transportation already prepared so that you can present these to your loved one at the time you talk about the issue. Besides public transportation, is there perhaps a community transit system? Could you plan ahead for friends or family to be available on certain days or times during the week? Perhaps a local church group or senior center have a ride share program.
It will also help you to be sure of the soundness of your decision. Make a note of specifics as you review this Safe Driving Checklist from Caregiverlist.com.
Caregiverlist’s Safe Driving Checklist.
- Is the senior able to pass a vision test? Cataracts, Glaucoma etc. can impact vision quality).
- Are there any unexplained dents in the paint of the car or on the garage?
- Does the senior allow others to ride in the car with them when they are driving?
- Does the senior seem nervous or extra anxious when driving?
- Does the senior take alternate routes to avoid major highways?
- Does the senior fail to stop at red lights or stop signs?
- Are speed limits obeyed (Not driving too slow or too fast)?
- Have neighbors or others who see the senior driving (anyone who also attends a regular event they may drive to) observed anything unsafe?
Prepare solid evidence to discuss with them. Facts and evidence will be harder to refute than generalities and worry. For instance, saying, “Mom, when I rode with you yesterday, you were very anxious behind the wheel. You consistently drove 10 miles under the speed limit, and you drove through a cross walk with a pedestrian in it” versus, “Mom, I’m really worried about your driving. You’re vision is getting worse, and I’m concerned that you might cause an accident.”
What do you do if you meet with resistance? Your first ally will be your loved one’s physician. Their doctor will be able to test their vision, reaction time, and hearing. If in their professional opinion, it would be wise to cut back on driving at night, or to take the keys completely, they will be able to open up the discussion to their patient. It may actually be possible for their doctor to write a letter that states it is unsafe to drive due to certain medications, or if they suffer from other impairments.
If they are still unwilling to consider giving up the keys, be compassionate, but make certain that they realize their own safety and the safety of others is at stake. In other circumstances, you can talk to the MVA to talk about options for having their license revoked.
It is an uncomfortable time. Trust yourself, and be assured that you are making a proactive choice for the safety of your loved one and may be saving the lives of others.
- AAA Survey Reveals Nearly Half of Senior Drivers Worry About No Longer Driving (wafb.com)