Whether a spouse, a parent or other loved one, there may come a time when you begin to question whether your loved one is still able to drive themselves safely.
According to AARP, …”the question of when it is time to limit or stop driving is not about age. It’s about the ability of the driver. To this end, observing the driving of the loved one about whom you are concerned and looking for warning signs of unsafe driving is a great first step in determining whether it’s time to talk to them about hanging up the keys.”
“Getting older doesn’t automatically mean that you shouldn’t be behind the wheel,” according to EverydayHealth.com. “However, regularly monitoring your driving abilities is an important part of maintaining senior health because there comes a point for nearly everyone when reflexes slow and vision deteriorates, making driving no longer safe for you and others on the road.”
Driving ability goes beyond the simply being able to physically operate a car. Safe driving requires physical and cognitive capabilities, sharp driving skills and good habits behind the wheel.
How can you tell when the time has come for someone to stop driving? We’ve developed a few things you should consider for you or your loved one.
Hearing and Vision: As we age, eyesight and hearing abilities may decline. You may need more light to see things clearly, like road signs or the car’s instrumentation. Glare from the sun, oncoming headlights, or other street lights may now start to affect your ability to see clearly while driving. Peripheral vision may narrow, and other vision problems such as cataracts or glaucoma can affect your driving ability.
Limited Mobility: Over time your joints may get stiff and your muscles weaken. It can be very difficult to turn your head to look back to back the car, quickly turn the steering wheel, or quickly hit the brakes if needed.
Reflexes: “You may also find that your reflexes are getting slower,” says MedicineNet. “Or, your attention span may shorten. Maybe it’s harder for you to do two things at once. These are all normal changes, but they can affect your driving skills.
Dementia: Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease may forget familiar routes or even how to drive safely. They become more likely to make driving mistakes, and they have more “close calls” than other drivers. They may also get lost on their route.
Medication: Seniors often require medication and some of those medications may have side effects that affect the ability to safely operate a car. Sleepiness, dizziness or agitation may all affect a person’s ability to drive safely.
Sometimes safe driving skills decline gradually over time – but at times, a recent health may cause a sudden decline. According to AARP, here are only a few warning signs of unsafe driving that may warrant further investigation:
- Delayed response to unexpected situations
- Becoming easily distracted while driving
- Decrease in confidence while driving
- Having difficulty moving into or maintaining the correct lane of traffic
- Hitting curbs when making right turns or backing up
- Getting scrapes or dents on car, garage or mailbox
- Having frequent close calls
- Driving too fast or too slow for road conditions
If suddenly you or your loved one has little dents on the car or gets a traffic ticket – it’s time to have a frank conversation about the driving ability of the senior.
“It’s important to remember that limiting or stopping driving is a complex and emotionally charged discussion,” according to AARP. “Older drivers have a lifetime of driving experience behind them and deeply value the independence and mobility that driving provides.” It’s a big deal and both the senior and loved ones will want to delay as long as possible. It’s a difficult, yet important conversation to have for the safety of the senior and other people on the road.