IS IT TIME TO GIVE UP DRIVING? 8 SIGNS TO LOOK FOR.
Driving is a privilege that most of us in the U.S enjoy from the age of 16 years. It provides the transportation necessary for independence, work, food, adventure, and relationships. As seniors age and some of their faculties start to dim; vision, hearing, reflexes and reaction time, it may be up to us to assess the safety of their driving abilities and take steps to ensure that they can retain their independence while staying safe. According to AAA, “per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase beginning at age 75 and rise sharply after age 80. This is mainly due to increased risk of injury and medical complications, rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.”
Since none of us want to suffer from a loved one out on the road, use the following signs to determine if driving should still be an option for you or your senior.
Is it time to give up driving?
Has your aging loved one had a hard time finding their way to your home lately? What about their own home? It’s one thing when someone gets lost on a new route or in an unfamiliar area, but it’s concerning when a driver gets disoriented on a routine trip to town or visiting friends or family. Getting lost on regular drives may be a sign that they’re having a hard time navigating on their own. Getting a GPS helps but one shouldn’t need to rely on a GPS to get home or go to their local market.
2. Frequent Accidents & Damages to the Car
Have you ridden with your senior loved one recently and taken notice of his/her driving abilities? If not, plan to do so and quietly assess; are they using their signals before turns or merging? Do they obey traffic laws, follow road signs, and lane specifications? Are they able to judge the distance required to stop and/or turn safely? Do they still have good vision and hearing? Are they mobile and flexible enough to get in and out of the car without a fall? If the answer to some of these questions is, no, it may be time to consider the consistent use of other means of transportation, such as a taxi, family member, friend, or caregiver to drive them. Unexplained recent damage such as dents, or scrapes to the car of an elderly loved one could be evidence of accidents, whether reported or not and an indicator of unsafe driving conditions.
3. Increased Number of Traffic Violations
Have you noticed an increase in traffic violations for your senior loved one, for; running a stop sign or light, parking in no parking zones, or areas not designated for parking, speeding, driving too slow, or any number of others? These can be warning signs that something has shifted and your senior driver may not be focused or paying attention to details. They may be defensive, blame others, or deny the legitimacy of the citation. Traffic citations are not only costly but may be an indicator that your loved one is at risk behind the wheel.
4. Vision Problems
Annual optical exams, current prescriptions in lenses, and optical health are necessary to ensure that a senior driver is able to see road signs, lane designations, and signals. Vision impairments or poor optical health can be dangerous for an elder driver and others in the car or on the road. Poor night vision is common among those with a vision impairment such as astigmatism because of light reflections. Cataracts affect 24 million Americans age 40 and older. By age 80, more than 50% of all Americans have cataracts. Make sure your loved ones can see clearly and read signage.
5. Hearing Difficulty
Have you ever been in the car when another driver honked and you noticed that your driver didn’t hear it? What about the sirens of an ambulance, police car, or fire truck when it goes by? Not being able to hear and respond in emergencies can put others in the car, or on the road at risk. It’s a good idea for you to check in with an audiologist and have your elder loved one’s hearing tested regularly.
6. Limited Mobility, Medical Concerns, or Medications
The older we get, the slower our bodies move. As we age we tend to lose flexibility, balance, agility, and coordination. This can be heightened with medical issues in joints and muscles such as arthritis. Medications may also affect our mobility and response time. Moving slowly, or issues with reflexes may cause a slow response time when driving. Response time might be the difference when it comes to avoiding an accident or not. If an aging family member has mobility issues, it may have an impact on his/her ability to drive safely.
7. Driving Behavior Changes
If you’ve known your aging loved one to have always required or exhibited certain driving habits in the past, like wearing a seatbelt, and lately they haven’t been doing it, it just might indicate a warning for driving safety. Driving behavior changes may be a sign that your senior driver isn’t as safe a driver as they once were. Behavior changes can also result from taking certain medications but should still be considered a potential hazard to driving safely.
8. Family/Friends Reluctance to Ride with Senior.
Have you ever been ready to get into the car as a passenger with a loved one and noticed that look of concern from others? Have other family members or friends verbally joked about Grandma’s driving, or how Uncle Benny always hits the curb while parking? It is all fun and games until you consider the risks of an accident. Reluctance from family or friends to ride with an aging senior can be another good warning sign of unsafe driving habits.
None of us wants to take away a loved one’s independence or to give up our own, but it’s important that we make sure our loved ones and others are safe on the road. Giving up driving does not mean losing independence, not with ride-sharing services like; Uber and Lyft, taxis/cabs, public transportation, and of course, a caregiver as a personal chauffeur
Talking to your loved one about giving up a license can be hard. Happy at Home is here to help you and your loved one through the process if you need.
Happy at Home is an in-home care company providing exceptional in-home care services including help with; transportation, grocery shopping, errands, bathing & showering, light housekeeping, and more. Our personalized care offers peace of mind and gives your loved ones the one-on-one care they deserve. We are located in Chico, Sacramento and opening up soon in Southern Oregon. Please contact us today to discuss how we can be of service to you or your loved one.