What should you do if you begin to suspect that the person you care for is declining in their driving ability? Should you take away the keys? Have them evaluated? Or let them keep driving?
Some of the biggest problems are failure to yield the right of way, making improper left turns, and the inability to back up, get on and off the highway, negotiate blind spots, get lost driving to familiar places, and reacting quickly.
Although it is always a sensitive topic, we recommend that the first thing you do is to have a family discussion about your loved ones driving ability. For many older adults, particularly those who live in remote communities, driving is closely tied to independence. You need to be able to broach the subject with diplomacy and be prepared to suggest other ways for your parents to maintain independence and get around.
Spend some time learning about what it takes to be a safe driver and how age affects driving ability. When you begin talking to your parents, at least you’ll have some facts on hand.
Experts believe that 90 percent of the information we need to drive comes through our eyes, especially our peripheral vision. As we age, we need more light to see clearly, find it harder to adjust to glare from oncoming headlights and have difficulty refocusing from light to dark. Judging distances also becomes more difficult.
People with hearing loss have difficulty detecting high-pitched sounds from sirens, horns and train whistles. Plus reaction time in older adults is slower, making high-volume traffic conditions and negotiating busy intersections challenging. Making matters even worse, older drivers are more likely to be taking medications, some of which cause drowsiness or confusion.
Here are some warning signs to look for:
- Getting lost when driving to familiar places
- Changing lanes without signaling
- Going through red lights or stop signs
- Reacting too slowly, and straying into other lanes or onto the side of the road.
- Showing significant hesitancy at intersections, making jerky stops and starts, and driving too slowly or too fast
- Having difficulty making left turns and merging
Some additional things you can do is to help your loved on adjust to their changing abilities as a senior driver. Share with them the following tips: Share with them the following tips:
- Make sure you can easily see over the dashboard.
- Check that your feet easily reach the pedals.
- Make sure the steering wheel, mirrors and seats are adjusted properly.
- Avoid night driving, driving in rush hour, and being on the road in bad weather.
- Limit driving to short distances.
- Plan and know the route in advance.
- Create more simplified routes to favorite places, avoiding challenging merges and intersections.
- Get regular medical check-ups that include vision and hearing tests and check your medications to make sure they’re not interfering.
- Stay a safe distance behind the cars in front of you to make up for slower reaction time.
- Look ahead to get a jump on trouble.
- Avoid buying cars with heavily tinted windshields & windows.
- Keep headlights clean.
- Use night glasses to reduce glare.