Is it Time to Give up the Car Keys?

Is it Time for Your Older Driver to Give Up the Keys? According to a March 2018 report released by TRIP, a national transportation research group, 3.3 million licensed drivers in Florida are 65 or older (2nd in the U.S.), comprising 23 percent of all licensed drivers in the state. Fatalities in traffic crashes involving […]

Is it Time for Your Older Driver to Give Up the Keys?

According to a March 2018 report released by TRIP, a national transportation research group, 3.3 million licensed drivers in Florida are 65 or older (2nd in the U.S.), comprising 23 percent of all licensed drivers in the state. Fatalities in traffic crashes involving older drivers  increased 22 percent from 2012 to 2016. The number of older drivers killed in those crashes increased by 16 percent nationwide. Because older drivers may have health conditions or take medications that negatively affect their driving abilities, this can put them and other road users at risk. Older drivers may not be aware of these changes, or they may not be willing to admit them – to themselves or to others – including family members. Or in the case of people with cognitive impairments like dementia; they don’t necessarily have the insight to recognize poor performance.

Family members or caregivers often wonder what they should do if they think a loved one’s driving skills have diminished. It can be a difficult issue to navigate because family members don’t know how to assess their senior’s driving abilities. They dread approaching an older loved one to discuss whether he or she needs to modify his or her driving habits or to stop driving altogether. However, older drivers and their families and caregivers need to take a realistic, ongoing inventory of the senior driver’s skills and openly discuss them. Family members need to remember one very important thing: many older drivers view driving as a form of independence. Bringing up the subject of their driving abilities can make some older drivers defensive, angry, hurt, or withdrawn. Be prepared with observations and questions, listen with an open mind, and be prepared to offer transportation alternatives.

If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, it is time to have a frank discussion with your older driver:

  • Does he or she get lost on routes that should be familiar?
  • Have you noticed new dents, scratches, or other damage to his or her vehicle?
  • Has he or she been warned by a police officer, about poor driving performance, or received a ticket for a driving violation
  • Has he or she experienced a near miss or crash recently?
  • Has his or her doctor advised him or her to limit or stop driving due to a health reason?
  • Is he or she overwhelmed by signs, signals, road markings, and everything else he or she needs to focus on when driving?
  • Does he or she take any medication that might affect his or her capacity to drive safely?
  • Does he or she stop inappropriately and/or drive too slowly, preventing the safe flow of traffic?
  • Does he or she suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, glaucoma, cataracts, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, or other illnesses that may affect his or her driving skills?

If you answered “yes” to any of the previous questions about a senior driver, it is important to have a caring, respectful, and non-confrontational conversation about his or her safety, as well as the safety of others on the road. Show genuine concern and understanding, and offer viable alternatives that will not injure the their self-respect and sense of independence. Some first steps in evaluating the situation are to take a ride with your older driver to observe driving skills, get vision and hearing evaluations and encourage enrollment in an older driver safety class. You can also discuss your concerns with your loved one’s physician, and ask for recommendations.

The good news is that depending on the severity of the problem, older drivers may be able to adjust their driving habits to increase their safety. For example, they may limit driving to daylight hours and good weather, or avoid highways and high traffic areas.

For more information and additional resources on older drivers please visit  the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  and ChoRUS, Clearing House for Older Road User Safety.

 

I’m Liz Craven, and I live in Lakeland, FL with my husband Wes and our menagerie of pets (our kids are grown up now and killing the whole adulting thing). We own a local publishing company, Pro-Ad Media, and for the last 25 years have been providing digest sized publications featuring various aspects of Polk County life. Having lived here for most of my adult life, I have a pretty good handle on what makes a community special. I serve on multiple boards, and I love connecting people to each other and to local organizations that can enrich their lives.

The inspiration for the first printed ElderCare Guide came from my own experience learning to navigate the senior care world for family and wishing I had a handy resource. With our website, we can now provide tools and assistance to family members wherever they are.

Though I’m new to the blogging scene, anyone who knows me knows I almost always have something to say. Originally, I thought this was going to be my blog about all things seniors, a vehicle to share what I know about seniors that might be of interest and helpful to others. Then I realized this should be a bigger conversation, one that we need to have as a community. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of meeting engaged and passionate people who have dedicated themselves to making Polk County a great place to live for people of all ages. This conversation should include them, and it should include you. So, while you will hear from me personally on a regular basis, you will also hear from local leaders and professionals who will shed light on different topics related to senior adults. As a local conversation, those who share here are accessible to you in case you have more questions about their topics (see, there is that connecting people thing again. So much fun!).

I hope you will join me in this weekly conversation. Moreover, I hope you will invite others to join the conversation as well. If you have particular topics of interest you’d like to hear more about, let me know and I’ll do my best to address them. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for more great information.

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