Safety Tips For Older Drivers
Do you remember how it felt when you learned to drive or when you first got your driver’s license? You probably felt freedom, independence and a huge sense of responsibility. Imagine if you could no longer do that? What if you could no longer drive to work, to the grocery store, or to visit your friends? You might feel a sense of frustration, sadness or even anger.
Driving at any age requires attention to detail, quick reflexes and good vision. As we age, our minds may not be as sharp as they used to be, our reflexes may get slower and our ability to see may be compromised to some extent. So how do you know when it is time for your loved one to hand over the keys? If you are a caregiver to an elderly driver, consider the following before initiating a conversation about driving privileges.
Approximately 19% of all traffic fatalities involve drivers over the age of 65.¹ If an older driver has recently been in an accident, even if it wasn’t their fault, discuss the details with them. If they were not at fault, would they have been able to respond differently if the accident had occurred ten years earlier? If the older driver was at fault, what were the circumstances?
Was there a visual impairment, an attention problem, or some other issue that you had not noticed earlier in their driving career? And how did the driver respond? This should be a discussion, not a lecture. Ask questions, but more importantly, be a good listener.
If the older driver has recently received a traffic citation, you notice damage to their car, or even if they have had a few close calls, this may warrant a discussion. Let the driver know that you are concerned for their safety and the safety of others.
Older drivers may take medications that could have an effect on their driving. Some prescription medicines warn against operating heavy equipment and some warn that the medication may make you drowsy. You and the driver may want to have a discussion with their physician if you are concerned about specific medications.
Additionally, if the driver suffers from eye issues that could affect driving such as cataracts or glaucoma, some restrictions may be placed on their driving by their physician. Other conditions that affect mobility, such as arthritis or other joint issues could also inhibit driving safely. In addition, other medical issues that could affect driving are anxiety, dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease.¹ If the older driver has become lost or overwhelmed, ask if this is an ongoing problem.
Have a Plan
It’s one thing to suggest that the older driver give up their keys, but that presents a bigger issue unless you have a plan in place. Driving has become an essential part of their life and they are going to be resistant to stop, especially if you don’t have a plan to present. They are still going to need to get groceries, have transportation to church or social gatherings, or for planned medical appointments. Make sure you are well prepared before sitting down to have the discussion, as this may help lessen the emotional impact.
- If the older driver is resistant to giving up driving, suggest a driving class or evaluation to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
- Suggest driving at times when traffic is lighter or driving before dark.
- Check out community or municipal transportation for seniors. Some communities offer various types of public transportation for free or at discounted prices for senior citizens.
- Ask if there are there friends or family members that attend the same social or religious functions that they could share a ride with.
- Set up an account on Uber, Lyft or another ride-sharing program so that the driver has real-time access to a ride whenever they want to go somewhere.
- Explore various home delivery options for groceries and other household items.
Having a conversation with an older loved one who is struggling with giving up their independence is difficult. It needs to be approached lovingly and in a positive manner. Stress that you want the driver to continue to be mobile, remain socially active and that you just want them to be safe.
At Fritz Law LLC, we are very safety conscious. However, not everyone driving on the road is. If you or one of your family members is injured in an accident that is someone else’s fault, please give us a call. We would love to help!