Many auto accidents occur because of elderly individuals who have become less capable of driving safely, for many different reasons, but do not realize the risk. If you have an elderly family member, then it may fall to you to notice when your loved one is no longer able to safely operate their vehicle and to have the difficult discussion about whether or not they should continue to drive. It is a difficult situation for many reasons.
For one thing, nobody wants to give up their freedom and independence. Your loved one may have concerns about how they’re going to get to the doctor, how they’re going to go shopping, and how they’re going to keep up with the various aspects of their life and social life that they’ve always been in control of. Finally, your loved one might even be offended by the suggestion that they are no longer capable of taking care of themselves when driving. An aging parent might even point out that they were the one who taught you to drive, and they might get angry with you for suggesting that they can no longer maintain their own independence in this way.
With all of these obstacles in mind, how can you know when it’s really time to bring up the conversation? And how can you achieve your goal when you do, without hurting someone that you love or creating a contentious and upsetting situation? To begin with, know that you are not alone, and the majority of people who have had to confront this situation have expressed that it was one of the most difficult things they’d ever done. This may not be too reassuring or comforting when the prospect of taking the car keys away from someone you love and respect is staring you in the face, but it is the truth, and you are not the first to face it.
At What Age Should a Person Stop Driving?
If only there were a certain age at which people should stop driving, the whole thing might be a lot easier for the loved ones of elderly drivers. You could simply state that the time has come, and it is officially the right moment. It wouldn’t be a judgment call or an indication that you have lost faith in your loved one’s ability to drive. It would simply be the way it is, and something everyone just has to do, regardless of their actual abilities.
On one hand, it is fortunate that this is not the case, because some people are fully capable of safe driving well into their 80’s and 90’s, and those drivers should not be forced to give up their independence just because some people lose these abilities with age. On the other hand, it would make the conversation much simpler if there was an official age when everyone had to give up the keys. As it is, you’ll have to take it on a case by case basis, and pay attention to the health, wellbeing, and safety of your elderly loved ones to make the decision of when it is appropriate to discuss the idea of no longer driving in their old age.
Although we can’t tell you a specific age to bring it up and to take away your loved ones keys, we can tell you when it’s time for you to start paying attention to their driving abilities. If you know that your loved one has issues with their sight or something else that would hinder driving, then the actual age is less relevant. However, if your loved one doesn’t have any specific issues that would raise concerns, then it’s a good idea to simply start being more aware of how they drive and whether they are capable of driving safely when they reach the age of 65. This is because the risk of causing an auto accident begins to increase at a steady rate from the age of 65 onward. Drivers over the age of 80 are almost as likely to be killed in an auto accident as teenagers, which comprise the group of individuals most likely to have a fatal accident.
Of course, this does not mean that you should confront your loved one on their 65th, 70th, or even 80th birthday about their inability to continue driving. As mentioned previously, some people are fully capable of driving safely well into their 80s and 90s. It really is something that has to be addressed on a case by case basis, and you have to be sure that you’re doing the right thing when you bring it up. In many cases, the elderly are safer drivers than other age groups. They have decades of experience with driving, and they are generally more cautious. They cause fewer fatalities to other drivers and to pedestrians than other age groups.
So, now you know about what age to start watching out for unsafe driving behaviors; how do you decide when the time has really come and your loved one should quit driving?
What Are the Risks for Unsafe Driving in the Elderly?
This is where you need to know what risks to consider when you are trying to determine whether or not your elderly loved one is more likely to cause an accident. Keep in mind that the presence of one of these risks does not necessarily mean that your loved one can no longer driver safely; these are simply the factors to consider when making a decision about whether or not it might be time to have the difficult conversation or take away the keys.
- Physical and Mental Health: If your loved one has a physical or mental health condition that could impair their driving or their judgment, then you should look into this. Ride along with your loved one to see how well they drive, and consider going with them to the doctor to discuss your concerns, with your loved one’s permission.
- Vision or Hearing Impairment: It is essential for your loved one to be able to see well enough and hear well enough to drive safely. If your loved one has a vision impairment or hearing impairment that is well managed with glasses or hearing aids, for example, then this may not be an issue. However, if such a condition is not well managed, then it could become a serious hazard when driving.
- Prescription Medication Side Effects: It is wise to know what kinds of medications your elderly loved one is taking, and to be aware of the potential side effects of those medications. Further, if your loved one takes multiple medications, you need to know how they interact with each other. You can learn this information from the paperwork that comes with the prescription, from internet research, and best of all, from their doctor, if you have their permission or power of attorney to talk to their doctor.
The most important thing that you can do when it comes to making sure that your elderly loved one is a safe driver is to pay attention to things like this, to spend time with them in the vehicle, and to notice any indications that they’ve been in an accident or almost been in an accident. If you pay attention, and if everything seems fine, then you can set your mind at ease. Yet, you must do so again, and again, regularly, to make sure that you know if something changes and that you take the appropriate action, however difficult it might be to do so.