Imagine you get a phone call and it’s the police informing you that your 82-year-old mother has been in a car accident. She hit a light pole and was injured.
Instantly you feel fear and guilt because you have noticed changes in her driving behavior – the forgetfulness and her inability to concentrate—and you ask yourself, “Could I have prevented this?”
Warning Signs that a Senior Driver is at Risk
As we age, it’s normal for our driving abilities to change. Too often, senior drivers who can no longer drive safely either do not recognize this change or have a difficult time giving up their independence and control that comes with driving a car. It’s important to be aware and notice changes in senior driving behavior. If you notice any of the following, it may be time to talk to your loved one about a senior driving test:
- Lack of confidence while driving
- Decline in vision or hearing loss
- Limited mobility
- Easily distracted while driving
- Using improper signaling
- Hitting curbs
- Driving excessively slow/fast
- Car dents
- Drifting into other lanes
- Difficulty maintaining lane position
- Traffic citations
- Minor fender benders
- Getting lost or forgetting where they’re going
All of the above signs can be indicators of cognitive decline. Talk to your senior driver and recommend that it may be time to get a driving evaluation by a doctor or geriatric care service. Vision and hearing should be tested as well as reflexes and memory.
How to Talk to your Senior Driver about Giving up the Car Keys
Many people are sensitive about the prospect of not driving. Here are some easy steps to take to make sure your conversation with your loved one goes well:
It’s a good idea to plan out how you’re going to approach the subject. Make sure you have a thoughtful and thorough plan before having the conversation.
It helps to be empathetic. Put yourself in the senior driver’s position to see things from a different perspective. Remember, a car is not just a mode of transportation, it’s more about what it represents – independence and freedom.
Discuss safety considerations
Talk about safety considerations for the senior driver and remind him/her that others on the road are at risk as well.
Emphasize monetary savings
Bring up the savings of not owning/using a car, such as the cost for gasoline, maintenance, repairs, and insurance.
Propose alternative transportation plan
Determine which forms of transit are near your loved one’s home and do some research on the various options so you can offer driving alternatives, such as:
- Public transportation
- Senior transit
- Ride sharing
- Private drivers
If health permits, walking or cycling are great ways to get around, plus you get some exercise. If you live in a senior living community, learn about transportation that is offered.