As our loved ones get older, it is natural that their driving abilities will change. While many seniors can still drive safely into their seventies and eighties, it is important to look for the warning signs that age is becoming a factor.
Since everyone ages differently, there is no “standard” cutoff age when someone must stop driving. Even though we commonly think of teenagers and young adults as the main source of traffic accidents, often it is the elderly that show increased traffic violations. In fact, fatal crash rates rise sharply after a driver has reached the age of 70.
What causes this increase?
Aging tends to result in a reduction of strength, coordination, and reflexes, which can have a major impact on your ability to safely control a car. For example:
• Pain or stiffness in your neck can make it harder to look when changing lanes.
• Vision or hearing problems can reduce safety.
• Reaction time may be impaired.
• Problems with memory may impair driving.
As you can imagine, when this occurs, taking the keys away from the older individual eliminates their mobile independence and there may be resistance to this change. If you feel there is a need for this, talk to your parent or loved one and, if necessary, involve their doctor in the explanation.
Sometimes, your doctor may have a better solution than just taking away the car keys. Just because the individual may be aging does not mean their driving days are over. In some cases, the car can be modified to overcome some of the physical obstacles that may occur. Having their eyesight and hearing checked regularly and getting enough sleep will also help in a person’s driving abilities.
The most important thing is to talk with the doctor and come up with the best plan that will allow for your loved one to lead an independent and fulfilling life while defeating whatever challenges they may face while driving.