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When is it time for a senior to give up driving?

Posted at 7:02 PM, Feb 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-21 21:02:59-05

"When is it time for grandma or grandpa to give up driving?" It's a question a lot of Americans face, and a complicated one at that. Craig Swapp & Associates have some helpful tips for determining when and how to make that call.

For most seniors, giving up driving means a loss of independence and a new reliance on friends or family, something most seniors would rather avoid. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 28 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in the United States, and many of them suffer from what the CDC calls "age-related decreased in vision, cognitive functions and physical impairments" that make it difficult and even dangerous for them to be behind the wheel.

As long as they keep successfully renewing their license, they can legally keep driving. It's a delicate thing because while elderly people might struggle, there are examples of people driving safely up into their 90s. On top of that, grandma or grandpa may not be aware that their ability to drive safely has been diminished, or they may simply be unwilling to accept it.

Though it can be a difficult thing to talk to them about, it's something that needs to be done. For a lot of seniors, it eventually comes down to their own safety and for the safety of the general public. The statistics show senior drivers have more fatalities per mile driven than any age group except teenagers. While younger drivers may crash more, the crashes involving older drivers are more likely to be fatal. It often falls on family members to keep the senior-and other drivers-safe by pressing the issue.

Thankfully there are some tell-tale signs that you need to have the discussion. The biggest one being the senior’s vision, and 90 percent of the information needed to drive safely relates to the ability to see clearly. So, if grandma or grandpa have a decrease in vision, it’s time to reconsider their ability to drive safely. Signs that a senior's eyesight may be going out include:

  • Damage to the car – are there new nicks or dings in the vehicle?
  • Family/friends observations – discreetly ask family or friends who frequently ride with the senior. Have they noticed a decrease in safe driving?
  • Ask to be a passenger – take the opportunity to be a passenger while the senior drives. Monitor their reactions to traffic lights, road signs, pedestrians, and other motorists. Pay attention to whether they drift into other lanes, struggle to use the correct signals, or react slowly to unexpected situations.

Here are some of the ways that Craig Swapp & Associates suggest going about approaching the conversation with a senior.

  • You can’t just confiscate their keys, some seniors will go as far as to call up a car dealer and order a new set of keys if the keys are taken away from them by relatives so you’re probably going to have to convince them that it’s time. There’s no easy way to do it.
  • The best approach is one of perspective. Losing the ability to drive is losing a big part of what makes someone independent. The reality is that most of us, if we live long enough, will be facing a similar obstacle. Be kind, be understanding, make sure the senior understands you’re bringing this up out of love.
  • Make sure to suggest ways they’ll still be able to get where they need to go. Go over a plan with them on how to still run errands, make it to doctors’ appointments, visit friends and family, etc.  At the end of the day, it may be a little awkward or even confrontational to bring it up, but if it’s to the point where the senior’s safety and the safety of the general public is in question, it’s worth it.

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