Is there an elderly loved one in your family, or a close friend, whose increasing age is making you begin to doubt whether they can safely continue to drive? Being able to drive is not about age, but rather, the ability of the driver, notes the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). How can you tell when it’s time to talk to your elderly loved one about stopping driving? There are some clear signs and signals that we will discuss here.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) says that one in six drivers in the United States today is over the age of 65. As we age, our cognitive and physical abilities often decline, potentially making driving a hazard – not only for your elderly loved one, but for others sharing the road with them. If you have noticed your loved one doing any of the following, it might be time to have the “I think you should stop driving” talk with them:
Becoming confused by traffic signals
Is your loved one stopping at green lights, or running red lights, or even forgetting what these lights mean? Hesitating at a green light (or blowing through a red light) can both lead to fatal consequences. Make sure that your elderly loved one is not distracted by other things in the car, such as the radio or cell phone. If they are completely focused on driving, yet are still confused while approaching traffic signals, think about taking them to a professional to have their driving skills evaluated.
Denting or scraping the car, mailbox, garage, trash can, etc…
Does your elderly loved one’s car have more dents, dings and scrapes than it used to? These could be a sign of poor driving, and an indication that it might be time for your loved one to give up the car keys. If you are in doubt, keep an eye on the condition of your elderly loved one’s car. When you notice more or new marks on the exterior of the vehicle, take that as a warning sign.
Decreased confidence while driving, especially at night
Some elderly people are good judges of when they should stop driving. They might be indirectly telling you it’s time to hand over their keys if they refuse to drive at night, or avoid driving as much as they used to during the day. They might also only want to drive during sunny weather and refrain from driving in the rain. These are all signs that it might be time for them to stop driving.
Frequently getting lost in what was once a familiar location, and/or calling friends or family members for directions
If your elderly loved one can’t remember how to get to a store they’ve visited each week for years, this might be a sign of oncoming dementia. Another common occurrence among confused elderly drivers is not being able to find the car in the parking lot when they exit the store. Any of these things might indicate that it’s time for your loved one to stop driving and start using public transportation or the assistance of a friend or family member to go places.
Receiving many warnings, or tickets, from police officers
One or two traffic tickets or warnings is not usually an indicator that an elderly loved one should stop driving. Receiving a bunch of them, however, is a cause for concern. These could show a pattern of cognitive decline occurring over a period of time, and can make them a danger to themselves and others when they drive.
Having physical health problems that can cause trouble when driving
Elderly loved ones who still are cognitively sharp might want to consider giving up driving if physical ailments are causing them problems. Examples include arthritis, limited arm strength, vision problems, and uncontrolled diabetes. Slower reaction time can result from many physical ailments. If you feel that physical problems might be harming your elderly loved one’s ability to drive, discuss alternatives with them and their physician, if possible.