When should a senior stop driving? How do you know when it’s time to have that dreaded conversation with your loved one?
The last time I drove with my dad he made a left turn without his blinker on – from the right lane. He drove under the speed limit on a busy street, oblivious to the loud honks all around. When we were a mile from home, he turned on his right blinker which confused the car behind him. Dad was always a good driver, however, he is 89 years old now and things have changed. I live out of town and rarely drive with him, so I was unaware he might no longer be capable of driving safely. I felt guilty that I did not address the situation sooner. Clearly, it was time for Dad to give up his keys.
At What Age Do You Take Away the Car Keys?
When you take away the car keys, you take away independence. It’s therefore not a simple decision for anyone. And age alone is not a good reason to require an elderly person to stop driving. Some 90-year-old individuals still handle a car well, while some 70-year-olds do not. So how do you know when it’s time? For starters, consider the factors that might affect your loved one’s skills. Age-related changes, both physical and cognitive, can affect reflexes and skills.
Physical and Cognitive Changes That Affect When a Senior Should Stop Driving
The ability to drive safely can vary significantly among seniors due to factors such as overall health, cognitive function, and physical capabilities. If you notice these changes in your loved one, it may be time for them to stop driving.
Declining Physical Health
If the senior experiences decreased mobility, flexibility, or strength that may affect their ability to control the vehicle, it can be unsafe to continue driving.
Memory problems, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and delayed reaction times can all impact driving safety. Seniors should be able to process information quickly and make sound decisions on the road.
Vision and Hearing Impairments
Poor eyesight or hearing can significantly impair a senior’s ability to identify hazards and react to them while driving.
Frequent Traffic Violations or Accidents
Repeated traffic violations, near-misses, or accidents can be indicators of declining driving skills.
Medications and Medical Conditions
Certain medications or medical conditions may impair driving abilities or cause drowsiness, making it unsafe to drive.
Getting Lost or Confused
If a senior gets lost frequently or becomes disoriented while driving, it can pose a danger to themselves and others.
Reluctance to Drive
If a senior is anxious or fearful about driving or expresses concerns about their driving ability, it’s essential to take these concerns seriously.
When any of these signs become apparent, it’s essential to have an open and honest conversation with the senior driver about their driving abilities. Consulting a healthcare professional, such as a geriatrician or occupational therapist, who can assess your loved one’s driving fitness objectively can be helpful. The decision to stop driving is not an easy one, as it can affect a senior’s independence and quality of life. Sensitivity and empathy are essential when approaching this topic. This is a difficult task, but it’s essential to prioritize safety on the road for both the senior driver and other road users.
12 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs to Stop Driving
Take a casual drive with your aging parent to a familiar location so you can observe how they drive. If you notice these warning signs, it’s time to take away the keys.
- Drive too slowly.
- Too slow to brake.
- Confuse the brake and gas pedals.
- Delayed reactions
- Other drivers honk often.
- Drive too closely to the car in front.
- Unable to easily read road signs.
- Do not follow pavement markings.
- Can’t turn their head easily to check their mirrors.
- Not sure how to get to familiar places.
- Easily distracted.
- Close calls or accidents
OK, You Know It Is Time to Take the Keys. Now what?
Once you recognize your elderly parent is no longer a safe driver, you need to talk to them about it. This conversation is among the most difficult to have with a parent. Stay strong and know this is the right thing to do. If they get behind the wheel, they might hurt themselves or others. It’s best to have this essential conversation sooner rather than later before an accident happens. Some older adults recognize they need to stop driving and give up their keys willingly, but many, perhaps most, do not. They may be offended, defensive, or angry, which is understandable. A car is a symbol of independence and control – without it, your loved one may feel trapped and afraid.
If they resist, how do you convince them it’s time?
Below are some commonly asked questions we hear about when an elderly parent should stop driving.
What should I do if I suspect my elderly relative shouldn’t be driving anymore?
Have an open and honest conversation with your loved one about your concerns. You may also want to consult with a healthcare professional to assess their driving fitness objectively.
Can I take away their car keys without their consent?
It’s essential to approach this matter with sensitivity and respect for their independence. Instead of abruptly taking away the keys, have a conversation and explore alternative transportation options first.
How can I approach the topic of stopping driving without causing upset?
Choose a calm and supportive setting for the conversation. Focus on safety concerns and express your willingness to help find alternative transportation solutions.
What transportation options are available for seniors who can no longer drive?
Many communities offer senior transportation services, public transit options, and ride-sharing services, or family and friends can help with transportation needs.
How can I help my elderly loved one maintain their independence after they stop driving?
Encourage engagement in social activities and help them explore transportation options, such as community services or ride-sharing apps.
How can I ensure my elderly loved one’s safety if they continue to drive?
Encourage them to attend defensive driving courses and have regular check-ups with their healthcare provider to monitor their physical and cognitive abilities. Keep an eye on your loved one, though, as there may, unfortunately, come a time when you have to force the issue. It’s essential to prioritize safety on the road for both the senior driver and other road users.