Is It Time to Stop Driving?

Driving is often a part of our everyday life. It's something most of us will take for granted. This can make it hard to know when it may be time to stop.

Age is a common reason to stop driving. However, not all seniors need to give up driving. The AAA Foundation for Safety points out that age should never be used as the main reason for driving limits. A range of other factors, like vision, hearing, and reflexes, need to be considered. It may be hard to know when it is time to hang up the keys. Here are some tips to help.

Knowing When to Hang Up the Keys

Start by asking the following questions:

  • Has there been a pattern of close calls, violations, or minor collisions?
  • Do you have trouble spotting pedestrians, signs, or other objects?
  • Are you surprised by passing cars or do you brake harder than normal for hazards, stop signs, or stopped traffic?
  • Have you gone through red lights or stop signs? Have you backed into or over things or run into curbs?
  • Are you having trouble coordinating hand and foot movements?
  • Is the glare of oncoming headlights causing more discomfort?
  • Do you have trouble turning your head, neck, and shoulders as you back up?
  • Are you more nervous behind the wheel?
  • Do you experience increased anger or frustration while in the car?
  • Are you quickly fatigued from driving?
  • Do you lose your way, even in your own neighborhood?
  • Do you get lost or make poor or slow decisions in traffic?
  • Have you ever hit the accelerator instead of the brake?
  • Are other drivers honking, tailgating, or passing you aggressively?
  • Do you take medicine that may impair your driving?

A number of "yes" answers should raise concern. It suggests that you or your loved one:

  • May not be able to react fast enough to avoid an accident.
  • Are more likely to cause an accident.
  • Have trouble traveling safely on roadways. May cause accidents for others around you.
  • May not be able to handle a vehicle in an emergency.

Checking Driving Ability

Passing a driver test at a state agency is not the best test of driving ability. Drivers with reflex problems may still be able to pass the test. Rehabilitation centers and insurance companies offer better tests that help to rate driving ability. You can also go for a drive with your loved one. Look for signs of stress or tension while they are driving.

The primary care doctor may let you or your loved one know when it is time to give up the car. They will make recommendations based on what they find in exam. Muscle strength, eye sight, reflexes, and general overall health can all be assessed. It is important to let them know about any close calls or road troubles. Limits like only driving during the day may be tried first.

Talking to Your Loved One

If you notice that your loved one's car is getting bumped and dented, it may be a good time to bring the topic up. Talk about the new dents and scratches that you've noticed. Ask what's been happening. Your loved one may be relieved to talk about it. Some may be very resistant. Steps that may help include:

  • Plan out the conversation ahead of time.
  • Understand they may feel frustrated. There may be a lot of changes and some loss in their life. Give them time to voice their concerns.
  • Do not make demands. Do not rush in with fixes. Simply listen to what their concerns are.
  • When they are ready, look for other transportation options.

Some may still refuse to give up their keys. If you feel like they are a danger you may have other options. Consider contacting your loved one's doctor. They may be able to assess for issues such as dementia. You can also send a letter to state agency that voices your concerns. It will start a review. Some states allow you to remain anonymous but not all.

Talk to your loved ones if you feel like it is time to give up driving. They may be relieved that you brought it up. It can also help to understand what options you have.

Getting Around Without a Car

Buses, taxis, and vans are available through different places. Senior citizen centers, hospitals, city or town systems, and internet-based companies can help your loved one get around. Many seniors also count on family and friends for rides. Car trips can be a good chance to stay in touch with friends and family. For example, a grandchild may drive grandmother to the grocery stores every week.

For seniors on a fixed income, giving up the car may save you money. Public transportation does cost money but often less than the cost of a car and car upkeep. If a loved has had to give up their car, it is important to check in on them. The loss of a car can lead to isolation for some. Encourage them to get out again through other methods. They may find changes bring new opportunities.

RESOURCES:

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
https://www.aaafoundation.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Ontario Ministry of Transportation
http://www.mto.gov.on.ca

References:

Drivers 65 plus: suggestions for improvement. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety website. Available at: https://www.aaafoundation.org/drivers-65-plus-suggestions-improvement. Accessed February 19, 2019.
How's my driving? State of Michigan website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 19, 2019.
Knowing when it's time to stop driving. Healthy Women website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 19, 2019.
Last reviewed February 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 2/12/2019

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