How long can a senior driver safely operate an automobile? Who decides when it is time to stop driving?
Dealing with senor driving issues are challenging and difficult for families to deal with as their loved ones are aging. As older adults start to have problems with their physical and cognitive wellbeing, we have to realize that there may come a day when the safety risks drivers pose to themselves as well as others must be addressed. Discussions have to be had about the concerns and dangers on the roads. Difficult decisions have to be made. When there is resistance from your senior loved one, there may be the need to involve the primary care physician. The physician is often trusted by the senior and may listen better to them than their own family member. When no resolution has been made and the senior continues to drive, family members have resorted to hiding mail from the Department of Motor Vehicle, disabling the car and even hiding the car keys.
When researchers calculate crash rates per miles driven, senior drivers, especially those over 75 years old, have accident rates approaching those of teenagers. Poor vision, hearing, poor reaction time and difficulty with concentration attribute to these crashes. Dementia drivers are regarded as the most dangerous drivers on the road.
Cars and some traffic rules have changed and most of us have not taken a refresher course since we got our initial license. Taking a driving course can help one refresh one’s driving skills. These safety driving courses can accommodate age related changes in vision, hearing and reaction time. They can also evaluate whether someone should be driving at all. AARP has these “Driving Safety Courses” in a classroom setting and online. Questions can be answered about the classes, information on places and times for these classes are available. Taking a course will get you a certification and may get you a discount with your insurance company.
Medications and driving:
Driving performance can be affected by the medications you are on. Know your medications and understand the side affects they have. This is for prescription and over the counter medications. If the side affects state the medication causes drowsiness, dizziness, sleepiness and/or blurred vision, DO NOT DRIVE. Make sure you talk to your physician or pharmacist. Read the printed information on the side affects your medication has.
10 SIGNS IT’S TIME TO QUESTION DRIVING:
1) Frequent “close calls”
2) Getting lost – especially in familiar locations
3) Confusing gas and brake pedals – slow responses from one to the other
4) Finding dents, scratches on car, posts, mail boxes, garage door etc.
5) Having trouble seeing road signs, traffic signals, pavement markings
6) Getting angry, experiencing road rage, coursing, getting honked at often
7) Misjudging highway exit / entrance ramps
8) Receiving tickets or warnings
9) Difficulty in concentration / confusion
10) Having difficult time with changing lanes, backing up, checking rear view mirror
Seniors state that losing their independence is the most difficult challenge they face. The ability to come and go as one pleases is something our seniors love. It keeps them from feeling that they are dependent on their loved ones. Feeling that one has no way to easily get to appointments and activities, keeps older drivers on the road longer than they should be.
Seniors state that the fear of losing their independence is a nightmare. It is true that there is a much bigger need for alternative means of transportation. Communities have and are setting up more transportation services. Calling the senior centers and social services departments in your area can give you access to these services. Access Transportation, Dial a Ride, Taxis and buses are some options that can be used.
Safety for yourself and those around you has to be your first priority. No matter how difficult it is to stop driving you must consider the warning signs.