Getting old is certainly no picnic and there are countless seniors who can attest to this! Aging can oftentimes bring on many physical/emotional problems that can make driving a pretty perilous situation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are nearly 36 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the United States. Many of these older motorists are quite capable of maneuvering a vehicle safely. But people age differently. The CDC goes on to state that an average of 586 older adults are injured every day in crashes. Unfortunately, there will come a time when a senior will have to surrender their car keys because they can no longer safeguard themselves on the road. So where can you seek help in getting your elderly loved ones to hand over their car keys?
1) Health issues play a huge role in impairing an elderly driver’s reflexes. There are ailments that require medications or treatments that oftentimes come hand-in-hand with serious side effects. The American Medical Association has developed a curriculum that educates their healthcare providers on how to discuss driver fitness in the elderly population. Caregivers should consult with their loved one’s physicians to ask that they counsel their patient about giving up the car keys. Bear in mind, older adults often readily accept recommendations by their physicians.
2) As people get older, age-related eye problems can impact their quality of life and thereby, compromise driving ability. Difficulty judging distances and speed, bright sunlight or the headlights of oncoming traffic at night may impair vision even more so for an elderly person. A medical eye care professional also follows AMA guidelines and can assist you in securing an elderly person’s car keys as well.
3) If your senior has had an accident, the police may request from the Department of Motor Vehicles that the driver undergo re-testing, or they can even request the cancellation of their license.
4) Do you have a family attorney? You can enlist the services of a legal representative, so that they can in turn discuss with your senior, the risks involved to their estate in the event of a serious car accident. The risks may also cost younger family members their shares, if the estate is sued successfully by a victim, or the victim’s family.
5) Consider calling upon a cherished family member or dear friend to help convince the elderly driver that they are no longer safe on the road. These very same folks can also offer to chauffeur the senior to wherever they need to go such as doctor’s visits, church, social gatherings, grocery shopping. Research other modes of transportation that is available to seniors by calling your local National Association of Area Agency on Aging.
6) Driving is the ultimate symbol of self-sufficiency, independence, personal power—and identity. Losing one’s ability to drive is the ultimate reminder that aging takes much away from you, and that more loss will follow. So if you plan to take away your senior loved ones car keys, keep in mind that the situation can be a traumatic. Make your loved one feel that your move comes from a place of love and concern for their overall safety.
For more information on driving and the elderly, visit AARP’s Driver Safety Program and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Older Drivers Education site.