For older people, driving is a way of maintaining their independence. There are many older people who are excellent drivers. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that as people age, their chances for a car accident increase. This is dangerous not only for older people but for passengers, pedestrians or other drivers the accident may involve.
There is no arbitrary cut-off age at which someone needs to stop driving. A person can continue driving as long as it is safe, and there are steps that seniors can take to improve safety. Eventually, however, family members may have to intervene to stop an older person from driving for everybody’s safety. There are signs that family members should watch for.
Part of the issue is the medical problems that often arise with age. These may affect driving directly or require medications that cause side effects that impair ability. An elderly driver should have regular check-ups with a primary care physician and eye doctor. Drivers who need corrective lenses should always wear them when driving. All drivers, especially those who are older, should talk to their doctor about any symptoms or medication side effects that affect driving.
At any age, it is always a good idea to wear a safety belt when driving. Older people should also try to drive only when conditions are favorable, e.g., dry roads and sufficient daylight. It can also help to plan one’s route before setting out to avoid hazards such as traffic or construction.
Signs of danger
According to AARP, family members who ride with loved ones should pay attention to signs such as delayed responses and close calls, inappropriate speed for conditions and trouble staying in the correct lane. A family member who does not ride with an elderly driver but who notices dents or scrapes on the garage, mailbox or car should raise concerns with the older adult.
It can be very difficult to have a conversation about not driving anymore with an elderly loved one. However, it is better to have it early before someone gets hurt.