Recognizing the signs of when your loved one is no longer capable of driving is crucial. Not only is the life of your loved one in danger, but the lives of others on the road are as well. Studies estimate that about 14 million Americans are involved in car crashes caused by elderly drivers on an annual basis.
For some, having to speak to their loved ones about this can be a very daunting but necessary task. You don’t want to have to take away what little freedoms they have left, but it comes to a point when you need to decide if you are more worried their freedoms or their safety and the safety of others. Below you will read about telling signs that could indicate your loved ones may need to stop driving. We will also have given you some helpful tips to ease the conversation with them. Don’t put it off if you feel they need to stop driving. The sooner the better!
Causes of Driving Impairments
There are endless things that can cause an elderly loved one to be distracted or impaired at the wheel. The first that comes to mind would be physical impairments like vision problems, hearing problems, and slow reflexes. These are known things elderly people start to lose and have to endure in their daily lives. In addition, many elderly people in the U.S suffer from chronic illnesses that can seriously impair their driving skills. Some of these illnesses may include dementia, diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, cystic fibrosis and many more.
Driving is impossible without great vision. Unfortunately, the older you get the more prone you are to losing your sight. Almost 90 percent of the information needed to drive safely relates back to being able to see clearly. From having to see traffic signs, reading speed limits, and even seeing incoming traffic. Today, 6.5 million Americans over the age of 65 have severe visual impairments, according to the Longitudinal Prevalence of Major Eye Diseases in the 2003 study.
As you get older hearing can change, making it harder to be a safe driver. Sometimes hearing loss goes slowly and is hard for an elderly person to even realize. Studies show that one-third of those over 65 have hearing problems. Your loved one may not hear someone honking their horn or even worse not being able to hear sirens.
Reflexes tend to get much slower the older you become, you might not react as quickly as you did in the past. Stiff joints and weak muscles can also play a part in slow reflex time. Arthritis, Parkinson’s disease or physical limitations following a stroke can make it no longer safe to drive.
If your loved one is on medications you should look into the side effects of them that could possibly impair their driving skills. Some might make them feel lightheaded, drowsy, and unable to focus. These side effects could become the reason of an accident caused by your loved one. Even herbal remedies and over-the-counter medications can affect driving abilities.
Signs to Look Out For
If you and your family are struggling with this big decision, and are unsure if the time is right, keep an eye out for possible signs. Signs can include a number of things, AARP suggests riding with your elderly loved one and making notes on the skills they have behind the wheel. AARP also suggests having your loved one have an older adult driving evaluation done. Don’t be afraid to ask neighbors and friends if they have seen anything out of the ordinary in the skills of the elderly one behind the wheel. It would be better to ask them now then after an accident occurs.
When you visit your loved one, walk around their car and look for signs of damage. There could be a new small mark or could be a major dent. In doing this you are collecting evidence on whether a problem is arising or not. Make sure to also ask if they have gotten any tickets recently, if they won’t tell you check and see if their insurance has gone up recently.
For many, even this is even a hard task to consider. Many loved ones enjoy the precious time they have alone and the freedoms that come with driving. At times, elderly drivers don’t realize the potential dangers they are causing to themselves and others. They don’t think they are bad drivers and that’s where it becomes so hard in trying to explain to them they should stop.
If you become aware that the time is near and they should stop driving be sure and start talking about it early with them. Waiting will only make it hard for not only you, but hard for your loved one as well. If you are hesitant on whether they should keep driving make them re-take the test. Head over to your local DMV and get them to re-take a driver’s test. They can take a driver’s test and a vision test, if they fail then there is your answer. Make sure they are aware that you aren’t just worried about their safety, but the safety of other as well.
If you are very adamant about them no longer being able to drive, make sure to be stern with your decision. It will be hard for them at first, but will give you piece of mind when you sleep at night. Make sure and tell them there are still other ways to get around! With the different car taxi services such as Uber or Lyft, and public transportation options, they are bound to find one they are comfortable with. If you or your loved ones aren’t comfortable with these options there is always Gracepoint Home Care to help you schedule times for our care givers to pick them up each day and take them where they are wanting to go!