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Talking About Safe Driving With An Older Adult

Talking About Safe Driving With An Older Adult

As the population of older drivers increases, so do the concerns about the safety of those older drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that after age 75 the risk for accidents increases dramatically. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes, based on miles driven, than any other group except young drivers. Whether because of health conditions, or the use of certain medications, many older drivers will experience changes that negatively affect their ability to drive, and if involved in a crash, due to age and health issues, they often don’t recover.

While the drivers themselves may not recognize those changes that affect driving and still consider themselves safe to drive, family members may in fact have significant concerns. Family members often worry that continued driving many endanger not only their loved one, but others on the road.

Some of the signs that an older adult may no longer be safe to drive include:

  1. Getting lost while traveling once very familiar routes, such as to the bank or grocery store.
  2. Unexplained dents, scratches, or other new damage to the car.
  3. Recent tickets for unsafe parking, going the wrong way, or other traffic violations that may come from confusion about road signs.
  4. Driving too slow, stopping at inappropriate times, or driving in the wrong lane.
  5. Not being able to see due to poor night vision, or other age related vision issues.
  6. Dementia, or other illnesses that impair the ability to reason and problem solve.

Losing the ability to drive is a loss of independence and can be very isolating for many older drivers. This is especially true for those without family and friends to drive them to appointments and to take care of normal weekly errands. Even those with family often find it hard to arrange transportation without interfering with the work schedules and normal lifestyle of a busy family.

There are solutions that may avoid a potential crisis and allow the older driver to continue to safely drive. Many organizations (see links below) have safe driving classes for older drivers. Understanding how to be a more cautious driver by adjusting driving habits, such as limiting driving to daytime hours, or to familiar roads may help. However, there are times, when based on the circumstances, driving is just not a good idea. If this is the case and the older driver refuses help, doesn’t recognize their limitations, or has already had one too many issues, it may be time to do more. If this this the case, try to initiate a conversation with the older driver in a non-confrontational, respectful way to see if he or she will willingly agree to stop driving. If not, a discussion with the older driver’s primary care physician may initiate a report to the Department of Motor Vehicles (see link below) that a driving test is needed to keep the license current. This notification can also come from any concerned person.

For more information visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Information Institute.

The following links provide information on senior driving courses:

https://www.dmvflorida.org/senior-drivers.shtml

www.myimprov.com/Florida

https://www.aarp.org/home-family/getting-around/driving-resource-center/info-08-2013/formal-driving-assessment.html

This link provides information on reporting concerns about someone who may no longer be a safe driver: https://www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/faqmed.html

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