Senior women driving

When Driving Becomes a Danger for Seniors

A recent study revealed that elderly drivers caused about 14 million car accidents in a single year, showing that dangerous older drivers are a real threat to themselves and others. Senior citizens don’t always realize they’re a danger on the road, and family members might have a hard time letting them know.

If you suspect your elderly loved one shouldn’t be driving anymore, here are some tips on how to determine when it’s the right time to take away the keys, and how to approach the subject.

Know the Warning Signs of Dangerous Older Drivers

Not all dangerous older drivers will admit that they shouldn’t be driving. Many believe they’re not to blame for the car accidents, near misses, and traffic tickets in their driving history. But you can determine this for yourself by looking at some common warning signs of dangerous older drivers.

For example, if your elderly relative has gotten at least two traffic tickets or warnings from police in the last year or two, it might be time for him or her to stop driving. And if the driver has been in two or more car accidents in the last two years—including fender benders—this is also a sign. Accidents can be evidence that the driver has a slower reaction time than usual and possibly a problem with depth perception, which can be dangerous for everyone on the road.

Consider Safety Features That Can Help

Not every senior automatically falls into the category of dangerous older drivers. Some could still drive with the help of a few modern safety features, and most newer cars offer these. For example, a backup camera on the car can help with parking, while sensors can provide a safety net when it comes to lane changes. And automatic headlights mean the driver doesn’t have to remember to turn on the lights at night, which can take away one big danger on the road.

If a new car with modern safety features isn’t in your budget, at least make sure the current car is still safe to drive. Keep up with regular maintenance, such as new tires and oil changes, to ensure the car is operating at its best when your elderly relative is driving it. This will keep both your family member and other drivers as safe as possible. Of course, there’s only so much a safe car can do, so only rely on these features if you think your elderly relative still makes safe decisions while driving. Otherwise, it’s time to take the keys.

Understand Why Seniors Don’t Want to Give Up Their Driving Privileges

It’s important that you approach this topic with some tact. Driving is indeed a privilege and can make life easier, especially for seniors who live alone and can’t rely on others for transportation. They might feel they need to keep driving so they don’t feel isolated at home, or maybe they’re concerned they won’t have a ride to doctor appointments and therefore feel their health is at stake.

Either way, keep in mind that many dangerous older drivers don’t know that their driving skills are no longer up to par. They don’t want to be a danger on the road any more than you do, but they’re just not always aware that they are. So as you prepare to talk to your elderly loved one about giving up the keys, try to be sensitive about it, reassuring them that you know and care about their concerns.

Come Up with a Plan for Reliable Transportation

It’s not fair to revoke your loved one’s driving privileges without coming up with an alternative. If your relative suddenly can’t make it to the book club, yoga classes or doctor appointments, he or she will be upset and likely resentful. This is why you should create a plan to ensure he or she has safe, punctual transportation when necessary.

Find out if there are local public transit options that your senior could safely use, such as a bus stop in walking distance, or taxicabs, Uber or Lyft. Keep the price in mind before recommending one of these options. Consider getting him or her a bus pass or gift card with Uber credits if possible. Of course, you can also offer to drive your loved one on a regular basis. Maybe make a plan to drive him or her to the grocery store every Wednesday, and to doctor appointments as needed.

If you need help arranging transportation, contact the local senior center to get ideas, and find out if his or her health insurance plan offers free rides to doctor appointments.

Get Help from the Doctor

If your loved one is still convinced he or she is safe to drive, consider contacting the doctor. You might not be able to get information from the doctor about the family member’s health since this information is private. But you can still send an email or leave a voicemail explaining your concerns

If your family member generally trusts and listens to his or her doctor, this tactic might work. since the doctor may be able to convince your relative not to drive. Even if the doctor doesn’t succeed at this, some states encourage or even require doctors to let the DMV know when patients have dementia or other conditions that might make driving dangerous. So it’s worth a shot to contact your family member’s doctor if you need help convincing him or her not to drive anymore.

Getting dangerous older drivers off the road is not always an easy task since it’s a sensitive subject. But temporarily hurting your loved one’s pride is better than letting them continue to drive and possibly cause car accidents.

About the Aurum Network

The Aurum Senior Care Network includes more than 60 independently owned providers of senior services located throughout Massachusetts. Please contact us today for prompt, professional and friendly assistance.

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