Senior Driving: 7 Signs Your Parent Shouldn’t Be Behind The Wheel
In towns and cities that don’t have comprehensive public transportation systems, having a car comes to feel like a pre-requisite for independence. The ability to get from one place to another at the moment you want is a part of life most of us take for granted.
For some seniors though, the day eventually comes when that privilege starts to put them – and other drivers on the road – at risk. On the whole, statistics show that seniors are safer drivers than many other age groups, but they’re more vulnerable to health concerns that make driving more difficult, like failing eyesight, arthritis, or dementia. They also face a higher risk of death and injury from car accidents.
As a result, family members and caregivers should pay attention to any red flags that may suggest issues with their loved one’s driving ability. Do be careful not to overreact, as taking a senior’s car away will change their life and cause them to feel less independent and in control of their situation. You should only make that decision when the alternative diminishes your loved one’s safety. But when you’re confident that day has come, don’t hesitate to talk to them about it.
Things to Be Aware Of
None of these items in and of themselves necessarily mean its time to stop your loved one from driving, but they’re factors that should make you more attentive and aware that the day of reckoning may be coming sooner rather than later.
1. You see them make obvious mistakes.
When you’re in the car with your loved one, if you notice them making small driving errors more often, like almost running a stop sign, turning on the wrong street, or forgetting to use turn signals, that likely means they’re coming closer to the day when they shouldn’t be driving anymore.
If they start to graduate to bigger driving mistakes, like veering into other lanes or going the wrong way down a one way street, then it may be time.
2. They’re getting lost more than usual.
If your usually punctual loved one is now regularly late because they’re having trouble finding places they’ve driven to before, it’s a bad sign. Some people spend their whole lives with a bad sense of direction, so a tendency to get lost isn’t enough to take away the car alone, but it may point to larger issues.
3. Their eyesight is failing.
You can’t drive if you can’t see. If their eyesight is failing at a rate that contacts and glasses aren’t doing the trick, you need to be checking regularly to see if they still fall within the legal range.
4. They’re diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Driving requires focus. If your mind can’t maintain the many facts you need to know to be a safe driver, you shouldn’t be on the road. Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s inevitably reach a point where this is a real risk. The initial diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to take the keys away, but it’s a warning sign that the day will come when you’ll need to.
When It’s Time to Talk About Taking the Keys Away
There are early warning signs and then there are the signs that let you know you can’t wait any longer.
1. They’re having accidents (even minor).
Most motorists have an accident at some point, but having multiple accidents, even if minor, points to a larger problem. If your loved one is hitting mailboxes, coming home with new scratches on the car, or worse, actually causing life-threatening accidents, it’s time to take the car away.
2. They don’t pass a driving test.
If you have your suspicions about their fitness and you convince them to submit to a professional evaluation, you’ll have your answer.
3. A doctor confirms your fears.
If your loved one’s doctor expresses concern about their fitness to drive, or outright tells you it’s time for them to be off the roads, take the keys away.
This isn’t an easy decision to make, so don’t beat yourself up if it’s hard for you. Not being able to drive is an inconvenience, but not being able to get up and walk away after a car accident is much worse. Your loved one may argue and have a hard time accepting the new restriction, but if the time is right, they’ll be better off for it.