Americans are highly independent by nature so it should come as no surprise that of the 20% of US drivers over 65, few are showing much inclination to quit driving. With the rapidly aging boomer population, this number will continue to rise.
Although staying mobile, being connected to friends and family as well as remaining involved in the community are all undeniable benefits for aging drivers, many people question whether older people should be able to continue driving at all.
While this question might be contentious, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
Accident research has shown that driving is statistically more dangerous with age. The American CDC reports that each day in the US, over 700 elderly drivers are hurt and nearly 20 are killed in auto accidents. In 2014, over 10 million Americans had been in an accident where an elderly driver was at fault.
Simply being older in and of itself shouldn’t prevent someone from driving. However, with age comes both cognitive and physical challenges that can make driving difficult - if not outright dangerous - for some seniors if they’re still climbing under the wheel.
If you have a loved one who’s getting older but still driving, you need to be aware of their situation so you can help determine when it’s time for them to hand over the keys.
If you’re a senior yourself, trust your family to pick up on any signs that it might be time for you to consider quitting driving. They are only trying to keep you and others on the road safe from harm and can often be much more objective than you can when establishing whether it’s still safe for you to drive.
Of course, this is often easier said than done when you’re trying to point out to someone that they should relinquish their car keys for good. Your loved one might fear becoming dependent on someone to drive them and worry about losing out on their social life. You should reassure them that this isn’t the case.
Because this can be such a tough topic to breach, we’re here to help you best answer the age-old question: “When is it time to quit driving?”
Is It Time To Quit Driving
As people get older, they begin to experience assorted age-related health problems that can make driving physically awkward.
Older people face escalating problems with eyesight and hearing and reaction times naturally slow. Also, many older adults in America face debilitating chronic diseases that can greatly impair their ability to safely navigate the roads.
When it comes to travelling difficulties, drivers older than 65 are twice as likely to have medical problems that contribute than younger drivers. The Centers for Disease Control reports that drivers over the age of 80 are more likely to die in a crash than any other age group.
If you’ve ever seen a commercial for prescription medication, you know the scope of potential side effects can be huge and worrying. Many medications that can cause problems with vision, increase drowsiness, result in confusion and induce shakiness are medications routinely prescribed to older adults for a variety of health problems.
Different medications can also interact with one another and bring about even more serious issues. If you are concerned with the medication you or a loved one are taking, be sure to speak with your doctor.
Almost one-third of all adults over the age of 65 experience problems with their hearing. Loss of hearing is a natural side effect of growing older, but it can create extra problems on the road.
If you’re unable to hear approaching sirens, loud honking horns and you’re oblivious to many other road noises, you can’t be expected to safely go about your business.
For many people, getting older comes with a growing number of medical problems. From diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s to heart attacks, many health conditions put everyone on the road at risk.
When you’re driving, you rely a great deal on visual cues. Sound eyesight is key since up to 90% of the information needed to safely drive is relayed from what you directly see.
You need to read signs on the road, look out for hazards, watch for exits, not to mention monitor how fast you’re going. When vision become impaired with age, all of these things become more difficult for the driver which increases all-round danger.
Chances are you aren’t riding in the car each time your loved one goes for a drive so you might be unaware of any damages incurred.
Be sure to periodically check the car looking for scratches and any dings more serious than a door nick.
If your loved one has always been a stellar driver but is suddenly coming home with tickets for traffic violations, it might be time to talk about their driving future.
If your loved one is the cautious type and already aware of their diminishing driving skills, they might take preventive steps to avoid accidents.
If your dad suddenly stops going to his Thursday night bowling league and backs out of other social obligations held at night, he might’ve realized he can no longer safely drive when it’s dark outside.
Assessments For Older Drivers
When things have begun to change and you just aren’t sure what the next step should be, consider taking your loved one in to the doctor for an exam.
The doctor can perform hearing and sight tests and they can also test reflexes and cognitive skills.
Be sure to speak with the doctor about medications and any interactions, too.
Parking The Car
Be certain to simplify the logistics of your loved one’s social life whether you drive them to gatherings and events or you arrange for alternative transport.
Most towns and cities have transport laid on for elderly citizens at reasonable cost. This might be a practical option for some.
Beyond this, taxis don’t seem quite so expensive when you’re no longer running a car.
Whatever the solution, make sure not having a car doesn’t impact your loved one. Make it easy on them as they wind down their long career on the road.
When it’s time to quit driving, remember your loved one has now lost a portion of their independence and they might fear being left marooned. Make sure this doesn’t happen when it’s time for them to quit driving.
Quitting driving can be a sign that it may be time to look for a solution to your loved one’s independent living situation. It may point toward the fact that your loved one can no longer live safely on their own. If this is the case, it may be best to reach out to an assisted living facility in New Mexico, such as Landmark Senior Living to help. If you are interested in learning about Landmark, please visit our website and reach out to schedule a free walkthrough of one of our facilities.