A National “Mature Drivers Survey” conducted by Knowledge Networks in 2008, indicated from now through 2028, accident rates for ages 75 and over may cause potential “serious safety issues on our roads.”
Boomers Concerned over Aging Parents/Relatives
The Boomer Generation expressed alarm and need for better communication with their elderly parents/relatives on driving issues. Drivers over age 65 experience higher accident rates, with the exception of teenagers, than any other age group.
Many Boomers feel that senior driving tests should be administered every one or two years after the age of 70. States may also apply certain restrictions on senior driving licenses pertaining to long trips, and driving at night. Bill Van Tassel, Manager of Driver Training Operations for AAA, states that only 25 percent of road travel occurs at night, but 49 percent of fatal car collisions occur after sundown.
Aging Seniors May Have Physical and Mental Challenges When Driving
Physical dexterity and flexibility may be limited and can cause trouble peering into a rearview mirrow, turning the neck to check for crossing traffic, sitting erect and seeing over the dashboard, reacting to traffic situations, and maneuvering the steering wheel and pedals. Poor vision from cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetes, as well as mental decline (Alzheimer’s and dementia) also pose serious driving risks. Ask their doctor to step in if your loved one refuses to stop driving.
Helpful Tips to Assess Senior Driving Ability
The National Safety Council and Caring.com have issued helpful pointers for adult children to assess the driving ability of a parent or relative: Take several drives with your parent/relative at the wheel, and observe their driving with an open mind; notice whether your parent/relative is reluctant to drive; watch for slowed reaction time; notice his/her awareness of the driving environment; when the parent/relative is not with you, walk around the car to look for signs of damage; if you’ve observed some questionable driving, ask him/her whether they have received a ticket for speeding or another traffic violation; and, check with trusted friends and neighbors about his/her driving. Have your loved one’s auto insurance rates increased? Have you learned that he/she is reluctant to drive at night, seems tense or exhausted after driving, or complains about getting lost?
Be Considerate, but Firm About Concerns
It is difficult to begin a conversation about “giving up the car keys.” After all, it represents loss of control, autonomy, ability to participate in activities they enjoy, and increases dependency upon others, and causes social isolation. Humiliation, despair and depression may creep up. Don’t be critical, but show support and understanding for your loved one. Issues such as shopping for groceries, picking up prescriptions, keeping doctor and dental appointments, etc., must then be addressed, and a workable solution reached. Perhaps shuttles, senior car-pooling, buses and public transportation may help.
“Why Giving Up the Car Keys Is Such a Loaded Issue.” Connie Mattheissen, Caring.com Senior Editor.
“8 Ways to Assess Your Parent’s Driving.” Connie Mattheissen, Caring.com Senior Editor.
“Senior Drivers to Increase 70% Over Next 20 Years.” National Safety Council.