Although seniors typically have decades of driving experience, age-related vision and memory problems can cause their driving ability to deteriorate over time. Studies have shown that people over the age of 55 get into more accidents per mile than younger drivers. The risk of being involved in a car crash increases even more at age 75. So how can you ensure your aging relative is safe behind the wheel?
Below are warning signs you should watch out for that indicate your loved one isn’t healthy enough to drive. If they display some of these behaviors, it may be time to talk to them about retiring their driver’s license. After this section, we’ll share tips on how to have this difficult but necessary conversation about giving up their car keys.
Signs Your Loved One Isn’t Fit to Drive
Although there’s no age limit on driving, operating a vehicle may become challenging for your loved one as they get older due to a variety of factors. Health conditions like arthritis and side effects from medications can hamper their driving ability. Age-related changes in vision, cognition, and hearing can also make navigating the road more difficult. It’s important to take the time ask your loved one gets older to ride along with them every few weeks while their driving in order to watch for these signs.
Subtle changes in driving behavior
The first signs that your loved one is having trouble driving may be subtle. When you’re in the car with them, you might notice that their reaction times are slower and they can’t tolerate any distractions. They may drive too fast or slow and miss important road signs. Backing up and making right turns can be difficult for seniors with vision problems, causing them to hit the curb frequently. Changing lanes on the highway and judging distances between cars may also be challenging for them.
Mood changes/getting lost while driving
Mood changes are another sign that your loved one isn’t fit to drive. Seniors can become confused, overwhelmed, or even angry when they’re behind the wheel. They may also start getting lost in familiar areas, which is a big indicator that they’re not alert enough to drive.
Increase in close calls
As their driving worsens, your loved one may have close calls and nearly get into accidents. They’ll probably rack up traffic tickets and put a few new dents in their car by backing up into things. They may refuse to drive at night or on highways as their own confidence in their driving skills decreases.
These are all indicators that your loved one isn’t healthy enough to drive. If you notice some or all of these warning signs, it’s time to talk to your loved one about surrendering their license.
How to Talk To Your Loved One About Giving Up Their Keys
Everyone remembers how excited they were to get their driver’s license and take a big step toward independence. In our culture, driving represents freedom, which can make it hard for seniors to give up their keys even if they know it’s time. Here are some tips to help you convince your aging relative that getting off the road is the right decision.
Start the Conversation Early
Getting your loved one to stop driving will likely take time, so it’s important to start the conversation early. Begin talking to your loved one about giving up their keys as soon as you notice their driving ability declining. This will give them extra time to get comfortable with the idea of giving up their car.
Keep in mind that giving up driving is a big lifestyle change that your loved one may struggle to accept. Try to be patient and understanding as they process their emotions. Approach the topic of handing over their keys sensitively and from a place of love. If your relative starts to get upset or angry, it may be best to shelve the discussion and come back to it later.
Highlight the Risks
Your relative may not be aware that their driving skills are deteriorating, making them a danger to themselves and others on the road. Talk to them about some of the warning signs you’ve seen that their driving isn’t up to par, such as going too fast or ignoring road signs.
Express your concern for their safety and highlight the risks of getting into an accident at their age. Older adults are more likely to sustain serious injuries in car accidents than younger drivers and take longer to recover. One in four seniors also reports having chronic pain that gets in the way of daily life for months after being involved in a crash.
Your loved one may even hurt someone else by continuing to drive. Ask them to consider how they’d feel if they caused an accident that harmed another driver. Remind them that they may also face financial consequences if they’re found to be at fault for an accident. They could be sued and lose their hard-earned savings.
Once your loved one understands the financial, emotional, and health risks of getting behind the wheel, they may be open to giving up their keys.
Consult a Professional
If your loved one dismisses your concerns about their driving skills, they may be more willing to listen to a professional. Their doctor can tell them how their medical conditions might affect their driving ability. You can also hire an occupational therapist to perform a driving evaluation and determine if your loved one is healthy enough to be behind the wheel.
Your relative may be worried that they’ll become isolated once they give up their license. However, there are plenty of other forms of transportation that can help them get wherever they want to go.
Talk to your loved one about their options, such as using rideshare apps like Uber and getting lifts from family and friends. Some cities also offer free shuttles to seniors. You can contact My Ride North Texas to learn more about local transportation programs that may be available to your relative.
If your loved one is having trouble driving, they may also be struggling with other activities of daily living like cleaning and cooking. An in-home caregiver can help drive your relative around and assist them with household tasks so they can successfully age in place. We service many communities throughout Texas so if you’d like to learn more about our professional caretaking services, contact us online or give us a call at .