Older Driver Safety
Older driver safety. At what age should an older driver stop driving?
Families, friends or caregivers can be effective in helping older drivers with the issues of aging and safe driving. It is important for everyone involved to prepare to start this conversation by knowing and understanding:
Signs and symptoms indicating driving problems (warning signs/self- assessment).
Tips on observing the older adult’s driving abilities.
How to understand the meaning of driving from the loved one’s perspective.
Suggestions on how to begin the driving discussion.
How best to talk about appropriate driving choices and alternative ways to travel around the community.
Community resources for driving evaluation and remediation.
Strategies for driving reduction or retirement of the car keys.
Local transportation options.
We all want to maintain our independence as we get older. For many people, their independence is linked to their car. Drivers who use smart self-management to review their driving skills can retain their independence longer, while limiting risks to themselves and others.
It is important to understand how aging and aging-related changes in health status affect the ability to drive safely. This guide is intended to help with that understanding. It also provides references to where more information and services may be obtained about older driver safety.
As an older driver, am I safe to drive?
For most older drivers, the driver’s license is the most important document that offers mobility and independence. Many of us see cars as physical extensions of ourselves that take us wherever we want, whenever we want. However, the time may come when driving is no longer a safe option. The decision to stop driving is never an easy one. However, the key for a positive transition from driving to being a passenger is planning.
Our driving skills may deteriorate slowly so that we are unaware of what is happening. Self-awareness is the key to safe driving. The self-assessment below, taken from the Clinician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers (published by the American Medical Association) can help you decide if you should have your driving abilities evaluated.
If you check any of the boxes on the following safety assessment, your safety or the safety of others may be at risk when you drive. Talk with your doctor about ways to improve your safety if you are experiencing any of the conditions or symptoms that may be affecting your ability to drive safely. If you notice one or more of these warning signs you may want to have your driving assessed by a driver rehabilitation specialist, request a driver re-examination with the Colorado Department of Revenue – Motor Vehicle Division or attend a driver’s refresher class.
□ I get lost while driving.
□ My friends or family members say they are worried about my driving.
□ Other cars seem to appear from nowhere.
□ I have trouble finding and reading signs in time to respond to them.
□ Other drivers drive too fast.
□ Other drivers often honk at me.
□ I feel uncomfortable, nervous, or fearful while driving.
□ After driving, I feel tired.
□ I feel sleepy when I drive.
□ I have had some “near-misses” lately.
□ Busy intersections bother me.
□ Left-hand turns make me nervous.
□ The glare from oncoming headlights bothers me.
□ My medication makes me dizzy or drowsy.
□ I have trouble turning the steering wheel.
□ I have trouble pushing down the foot pedal.
□ I have trouble looking over my shoulder when I back up.
□ I have been stopped by the police for my driving.
□ People no longer will accept rides from me.
□ I have difficulty backing up.
□ I have had crashes that were my fault in the past year.
□ I am too cautious when driving.
□ I sometimes forget to use my mirrors or signals.
□ I sometimes forget to check for oncoming traffic.
□ I have more trouble parking lately.
As a Care Give, how do I talk with an Older Driver?
This conversation can be difficult for everyone involved but do not let the following reasons stop you from having it:
- Apprehension about the older driver’s response.
- Fear of being disrespectful.
- Isolation of the older driver if they live alone.
- Burden on others for rides.
- A crisis (crash) has not yet occurred.
Developing a transportation plan early can be a solution for everyone to maintain quality of life and independence when driving may no longer be a safe option.
Most older drivers alter their driving habits as they age. However, it is not always obvious when their actions behind the wheel are cause for concern. That is when the actions of family, friends, a physician or law enforcement become important. There are many organizations that have developed resources to help older drivers and their caregivers make driving decisions. One example, the Hartford Advance 50 Team, together with the MIT AgeLab, created free publications to help families address sensitive subjects and foster meaningful family conversations about older driver safety. For more information please visit: www.thehartford.com (search older driver). AARP offers a free online seminar called “We Need to Talk.” The course teaches how to assess a loved one’s driving skills and provides tools to have this important conversation. For more information please visit: www.aarp.org/driving36.
Changes in Driving Behavior
Family members or caregivers need to be aware of potential problems affecting safe driving when the older adult:
- is forgetful or confused;
- uses bad judgment when driving;
- fails to follow the rules of the road;
- cannot see where they are going;
- exhibits aggressive driving;
- drives well below the speed limit;
- experiences multiple traffic crashes (dents or dings on the car); or
- neighbors, friends or others indicate there is a problem.
DRIVE SMART COLORADO is a non-profit with a mission to reduce traffic crashes and deaths through community collaboration and education. With encouragement from the Colorado Department of Transportation, DRIVE SMART COLORADO was asked to take a serious look at the “senior driving population” and begin a program focusing on this age group. The first step hat DRIVE SMART COLORADO took was to found an Older Driver Coalition (2014). A diverse group of individuals that represented organizations that worked with this population. The coalition created a mission of their own: Address safe driving and transportation needs of seniors by providing resources to support independence so they remain, integral members of their community, as they transition from drivers to passengers.We all want to maintain our independence as we get older. For many people, their independence is linked to their car. Drivers who use smart self-management to review their driving skills can retain their independence longer while limiting risks to themselves and others. It is important to understand how aging and aging-related changes in health status affect the ability to drive safely. There are resources offered here that will help navigate this part of life’s journey.
It is important to understand how aging and aging-related changes in health status affect the ability to drive safely. There are resources offered here that will help navigate this part of life’s journey.