Some seniors don't know when it's time to stop driving which can be a danger to themselves and others

Knowing When It’s Time to Stop Driving

Bethesda Health | February 11, 2020

“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.” Dave Barry

Unfortunately, as we age, we may not realize that our driving skills are no longer “above-average,” or even that we are unable to safely operate an automobile. This probably aligns with our reluctance to give up our independence and admit to ourselves and others that help might be needed.

Regarding driving, however — what are the risks and consequences of hanging onto the keys too long, and what are the alternatives?

Physical and Cognitive Challenges and Driving

The aging process can creep up on us without realizing it. Our vision, hearing, reflexes, strength, reaction times, flexibility, and ability to handle new information gradually diminish. The danger is in denying it when it becomes evident. How does this make it dangerous to drive?

Medications can slow reaction times and affect judgment. Medication can also cause drowsiness, which sometimes accompanies a person who is aging.

Dementia/cognitive impairment may cause disorientation and delayed reactions to sudden and confusing situations while driving.

Signs to Look For

A ride-along with a family member could reveal some unsafe driving habits, including:

And statistically, when a motor vehicle accident occurs, the chance for serious injury or death is far greater for seniors than with younger people.

Family Members and the ‘Discussion’

Ideally, the senior will recognize that it is time to stop driving. However, this is not always the case. Driving symbolizes freedom, self-sufficiency, fun, and the ability to remain active in social activities. Family members must recognize that, for decades, Mom and Dad have been able to safely travel where and when they wanted. Now, giving up the car keys feels like a major change in how they define themselves.

What are some positive ways to discuss the issue?

Be prepared that some seniors will refuse to relinquish the keys. This is a response that cannot be ignored. Possible actions could include:

Alternative Transportation

There are several ways to meet a non-driving senior’s transportation needs:

Most senior living communities provide their residents with transportation to medical appointments, for errands, and to other venues and events.

Although losing the ability to drive may seem like you’re losing some of your independence, it actually can free you from the worries of navigating the road. Learn more about seniors and safe driving on our blog.

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