After a certain age, driving becomes a liability. Vision deteriorates, reaction times slow, and just getting into and out of a car safely can prove challenging.
But it’s not easy to convince someone — especially a parent — that it’s time to give up the keys.
How To Tell When A Senior Should Stop Driving
There are several things you can do preemptively to determine whether a senior is no longer capable behind the wheel.
- Do a ride-along: Regularly look for opportunities to ride along with a senior at the wheel, Melton said. That gives you a chance to see how they are driving first hand, and to “get a feel for how they’re handling the traffic situation.”
- Is their car damaged? Check their car for dings and scratches, which are “obvious indicators” that they’re having problems with depth perception and manoeuvring in tight spaces.
- Do they avoid driving? Take note if they start to avoid driving far from home, at night, in bad weather, or during rush hour. Any of these indicate they are less comfortable at the wheel.
- Do they still enjoy it? Ask them if they still enjoy driving like they once did, and if they feel comfortable. The answer may well be no.
How To Convince A Senior To Give Up The Keys
This is a sensitive situation, Melton said. Many seniors today have been driving for their entire adult lives, and having a car keeps them independent. No one wants to grow old, and it can be hard to admit that you’re not as capable as you once were.
Have conversations about driving “often and early,” Melton said. If possible, get family members on board. Be gentle, and kind, and recognise that you won’t get a senior to give up the keys after one chat.
Before bringing up the topic, have alternative modes of transportation in mind. ITN America, for example, is a nonprofit that helps arrange affordable rides for seniors.
And if the senior refuses to acknowledge that he should not be driving anymore, try going to his physician. Every state, Melton said, has laws that allow physicians to intervene for the safety of their patients. They can request that the DMV bring in a driver for new eye tests, for example.
It’s not a perfect system, and Melton pointed out the DMV employees are not trained to assess cognitive abilities.
The best bet, he said, is to start talking about giving up driving very early. Make sure the driver knows — long before it’s an issue — that he or she will eventually lose the ability to drive. With luck, you’ll get them on board.
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