(AXcess News) Grand Rapids, MI – Convincing parents or other elderly family members to give up driving may be one of the most difficult and awkward conversations a person might have with their family member. Hopefully that conversation never has to happen. Many older people remain competent drivers, but the normal processes of aging can hamper driving ability as can medications that affect reflexes or judgment or both. Adult childre need to be alert to whether it’s time for their parents to hang up the car keys.
Statistics show that drivers over 75 are at the same risk for an accident as teenage and young adult drivers – the 16-24 year old age group. Just as with teenagers, though, it’s only a segment of the population of older drivers that are dangerous behind the wheel. Many others have very safe records. They use seat belts, they don’t speed, drive recklessly or get behind the wheel after drinking. These older drivers may restrict their driving to daytime, avoid bad weather and rush hour traffic. Overall, they drive fewer miles.
How do people in this situation know what to do? It can be difficult to decide when the best time is to take away the keys. That’s why it’s a good idea to start talking with them about driving and monitoring their driving long before there may be a problem.
Observing how a family member drives is probably the most important part of this process, but it’s also important to keep tabs on their health. To continue to drive, seniors and their families need to monitor their response time, vision and hearing. They – or the children involved in this decision – also need to talk with their doctor about the medications they take and whether those medications will affect their driving ability. Here are some things to check on for parents or family members who may be reaching their driving age limit:
• Do they have a regular vision checkup and keep their corrective lenses prescriptions current?
• Do they seem to have trouble hearing and, if so, have they had their hearing checked? Do they need hearing aids but refuse, for reasons of frugality or vanity, to get them?
• Do they have a car that fits their needs?
• Have they considered a defensive driving program aimed at senior citizens, such as AARP’s Driver Safety Program?
• Do they have memory problems?
While many older people give up driving at night older drivers who continue to do so are presented with a unique set of challenges. At any age night driving is more dangerous than daytime driving. Talk with family members if they drive at night to make sure that they don’t drive when they’re tired or when they’ve taken a medicine that makes them drowsy. And encourage them to carry a cell phone they can use if there’s a night-time emergency.
Defensive Driving Courses
Defensive driving courses like the AARP Driver Safety Program can have a positive impact on older driver behaviors. While younger drivers are likely to get speeding tickets or tickets for reckless driving, older drivers more typically fail to yield right of way, turn improperly and don’t make proper lane changes. After defensive driving courses those behaviors often change and research on the program’s effect showed a reduction in tickets issues to drivers who completed these types of courses. One additional benefit – completing a course like this can lead to an automobile insurance discount.
Have a ride and a conversation
A trip to the store or any other routine trip is a good opportunity to observe their driving. Initial indicators of driving skill problems may be there even before getting in the car like scrapes, dents or scratches on the car or on items in the garage where the car is parked. Other indicators that there may be trouble ahead are behaviors observed while in the car like riding the brake, getting distracted easily from the road ahead or confused about what to do at an intersection, signaling incorrectly, parking oddly or hitting the curb or becoming confused with directions, signals or signs. Indicators that call for immediate attention are things like running red lights, getting lost in familiar places or confusing the gas and brake pedal.
A spouse, an adult child or the family doctor is usually the best person to start the conversation. Most people would rather hear from a family member about concerns about their driving. The last person they want to hear it from is a police officer. Find a conversational opening – a discussion about a recent accident that was in the news or a discussion of stressful driving conditions may give a lead in to a discussion about driving capabilities. This won’t be an easy conversation but it’s one that has to happen.
Source: Foremost Insurance Group