The decision for an older person to stop driving is an emotional one. Who determines when it is time? Sometimes the driver makes that decision, but most often it is a family member, either a spouse or a child. For many reasons, the decision to give up the car keys is a step that every family member involved with wants to avoid, but if you have concerns about a family member’s driving ability do not ignore them. The last thing you want is for your loved one to be involved in a car accident. Even though a lot of senior citizens continue to drive safely well beyond their 80th birthday, many older drivers face issues such as hearing and vision loss, slower reaction times, and other health issues that can threaten their safety on the road.
The experts agree that just because you are elderly does not mean that you are a bad driver. So, how do you really know when it is time for your loved one to stop driving? It is important to look at all the conditions and make sure that you’re convinced that there are no other options. There are some health factors that can raise concern about one continuing to drive. While these do not always rule out driving, they can increase the risk and they should be watched closely. Prescription drugs can have an affect on one’s driving ability. If your family member takes a lot of prescription medications on a daily basis, it is important to find out about possible side effects such as blurry vision, drowsiness, confusion, delayed reflexes and tremors to name a few.
Safe driving is directly related to good vision. From being able to read road signs accurately to seeing pedestrians and other vehicles with your peripheral vision, safe driving requires good eyesight. But as one ages, slow deterioration of the eyes is very common and eye concerns such as cataracts and glaucoma can develop and further complicate your eyesight. Just like vision, hearing loss can happen gradually without one really noticing it. Loss of hearing increases the risk of driving because it affects one’s ability to hear emergency sirens, honking horns, and other sounds that indicate possible danger and the need to think and react quickly. Encourage your family member to schedule an annual eye exam and hearing test.
There are certain signs to look for that will indicate whether your loved one might need to stop driving.
Look for new dents or scratches on the car. Has the driver scraped the car against the mailbox, garage doors, and curbs near the home? An increase in traffic tickets or warnings by law enforcement officers could be a sign of trouble. These red flags indicate frequent “close calls” and should not be ignored. Pay attention to signs by your elderly family member such as a hesitation to drive at night or an increase in frustration over being lost or not being able to find local landmarks.
At some point, your loved one will need to make changes in their driving activity in order to continue driving safely. Taking charge and being pro-active about correcting any physical issues can extend their ability to drive for months, and, sometimes years. When the time comes that your family member needs to stop driving, handle the situation with respect and care and be available to help with the transition.
About the Author: Chris Guedri is an experienced personal injury lawyer in the Richmond, VA office of Allen & Allen. He has handled complicated car accident cases, tractor trailer accident cases, bus accident cases and defective product cases across Virginia and the United States. In a career spanning over 30 years, he has been recognized by his peers as a superb litigator, Chris has been listed in the book Best Lawyers in America since 1995. More recently, he was inducted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, an organization of attorneys who are elected to membership based on their reputation for excellence. He has been included among “Legal Elite Best Lawyers in Virginia” by Virginia Business Magazine.