Knowing when to have a conversation with an aging loved one about driving is as simple as learning the warning signs for seniors on the road.
Driving abilities change as people age, so it’s only natural that seniors may not be able drive as well as they used to. You can help seniors stay safer while on the road and talk to the senior in your life when it’s too risky for them drive any longer.
There is no age limit for driving as long as the person is capable of safely handling a car. These safety tips and warning signs are designed to help you understand how age and health affects a senior’s driving ability.
Basic Safety Tips For Seniors
As people age, they have a greater risk of vision and hearing problems. They also have slower reflexes and motor skills. This can lead to disaster on the roads. While some seniors may be able to drive with no problems in to their 90s, fatal crash rates increase drastically after age 70.
There are several things you can suggest to the senior in your life to determine if they are healthy enough to drive. Talk to your aging loved one about doing each of the following checks:
- Regular checkups with their physician
- Annual eye tests
- Annual hearing tests
Ask seniors to talk to their doctors about any prescriptions they take. Some medications may affect their motor skills, cause confusion or make them drowsy.
Staying Safe On The Road
If your older loved one is healthy enough to drive, there are still precautions you can help them take to reduce their risk of an accident. The first step is to remind seniors they should never drive in any situation they’re not comfortable with. For instance, if they have problems seeing the road at night or when it’s raining, advise them to ride with someone else.
Help your aging loved one find a car with as many safety features as possible and work with them to maintain the vehicle. Even the best drivers are at an increased risk of an accident if their tires or brakes are worn. Seniors should drive vehicles with airbags, power steering, power brakes and an automatic transmission. Having an automatic transmission prevents them from trying to manage a clutch and stick shift.
All the basic defensive driving rules still apply. Ride with the senior to see how much space they leave from the car in front of them and how quickly they react to a changing stop light. Remind them of safe driving habits and even have them review a driving manual if needed.
One final safety tip is to suggest any senior who is still able to drive take a Mature Driving Course at their local DMV.
Warning Signs For Seniors
If you pay close attention to a senior’s driving habits and health, it’s easy to recognize the warning signs for seniors on the road. The sooner you recognize any problems, the sooner you can start the dialogue with the senior about alternatives to the current situation.
Start by riding with your loved one whenever possible. Seeing their driving habits in action gives you a good idea of how they react, stay within the lines, recognize road signs and handle distractions. Try riding with them in different weather conditions to see if adverse weather conditions affect their ability to drive safely.
Talk to them about any recent accidents, tickets or near misses. If they’re suddenly experiencing more issues while driving, their driving skills may be impaired and it’s no longer safe for them to drive.
One of the more obvious warning signs for seniors is health. For instance, if your loved one deals with arthritis, they may not be able to move as quickly to turn the steering wheel or press the brake. Mental conditions, such as dementia, could cause confusion or make them get lost easily.
Go with them to their physician to discuss medications. If any medications have negative side effects, such as drowsiness or delayed reflexes, ask the senior not to drive while taking them. Offer to drive them yourself or arrange for someone else to drive them.
Help the seniors in your life stay as safe as possible by making certain they have regular checkups, know the side effects of medications and have a safe vehicle. Your aging loved one may still be able to drive for years, but it’s important to keep checking on their driving ability. Start by watching for the warning signs for seniors and take action if necessary.
Ready to talk to your aging loved ones about safety? Use the tools at Safety Education Alliance to help you start the conversation.
*image courtesy of Andrew S. Ho