One of the most important and perhaps most difficult considerations you will probably face in life is when or if you must take the keys away from an elderly loved one. This decision should not be made lightly; many elderly people see giving up their car keys as the total and definite loss of their independence. You will need to ensure this decision is made thoughtfully, tactfully, and as lovingly as possible.
Having the ability to drive helps older adults stay active and independent; however, the risk of being hurt or even killed in an accident increases as people age. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 500 older adults are injured every day in crashes, and statistics also show that older drivers are much more likely to be involved in accidents than younger drivers.
In order to determine if your elderly loved one is not fit to be behind the wheel, you must pay very close attention to any warning signs their age or potential disabilities are interfering with driving safely. Here are 20 warning signs that indicate your elderly loved one might not be fit to drive safely, according to the NHTSA.
*He drifts into other lanes.
*He straddles lanes.
*She makes sudden lane changes for no reason.
*He ignores or misses traffic signals or stop signs.
*She easily becomes confused in traffic.
*She brakes or stops abruptly without any reason.
*He hits the accelerator suddenly without any cause.
*She coasts nearly to a complete stop in the midst of moving traffic.
*He presses on the brake and the accelerator at the same time while driving.
*She has difficulty seeing pedestrians, objects, or even other vehicles.
*She gets more and more nervous when driving.
*He drives at a significantly slower speed than the posted speed or than the general speed of surrounding vehicles.
*She backs up after missing an exit or road.
*He has difficulty reacting quickly as he processes multiple images or sounds.
*He has problems with neck flexibility in turning to see traffic on the left or the right.
*She gets disoriented or lost easily, even if she is in familiar locations.
*She fails to use her turn signals or even keeps the signal on without changing lanes.
*He has increased near misses on the road.
*He has been issued two or more traffic tickets or warnings in the past two years.
*There are dents or scrapes present on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, or even on curbs.
If you have noticed several of these warning signs happening, then it’s time to seriously assess the situation. Please do not wait for an accident to happen, but do remember to be sympathetic and caring toward your loved one’s feelings as losing the right to drive can be a traumatic event.
Now it’s time to take action. Instead of forcibly taking the keys away, you can try the following tactics to further assess the situation and to ensure your elderly loved one’s safety (and the safety of others):
*Ride along to a few of the elder’s appointments and see how they do. Remember to be calm and to not nag or berate him or her on any driving mistakes that are made. Simply make casual observation notes to yourself when you come back.
*Research other transportation that might be available if your elderly loved one needs to quit driving. You can usually find public transportation such as local or city buses around your neighborhood.
*Casually check the senior’s vehicle once in a while for any possible dents or scrapes.
*Suggest taking a driving test to evaluate the elder’s ability to drive a car. You can do this at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
*If you think the elder is still capable of driving but might simply be having a tough time at the moment, suggest that they enroll in a Mature Driving course. It would benefit even the most experienced drivers to brush up on their driving skills and could potentially instill a newer sense of confidence in the senior.
Remember, a person’s age is not and should not be the sole reason for taking away the car keys! Many seniors in their 80s and 90s are still active and safe drivers, yet there are also those in their 50s and 60s who have become to a danger to themselves and others on the road. The true factors that must be considered in this decision should be the mental and physical condition of the senior.
If the keys are ultimately taken away from your senior, remind them it isn’t the end of their independence. They can take alternate methods of transportation to their destinations, and these different ways of getting around can offer health and social benefits along with being a welcomed change of pace in one’s life.
If your elderly loved one is still quite capable of driving yet lacks auto insurance, we can help! Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com for more information!