Anyone with an elderly loved one knows that having the conversation about when it’s no longer safe to drive is difficult in many ways. Discussing driving safety is a challenging conversation for everyone involved. Driving safety is about more than changing wiper blades, checking car lights, and keeping up to date on your oil change.
It’s also about whether it’s safe for someone to be driving at all. Statistically, more and more people are and should be having that conversation, as there is currently a minimum of 45 million people over the age of 65 on the roads today. In addition, older drivers are statistically much more likely to be involved in a crash than younger drivers.
As your trusted community mechanic, Donnybrook Automotive, located in Tyler, Texas, we understand that driving is equivalent to freedom and independence for so many of us. It’s one of the first markers of adulthood when we gain our license. It’s how we do everything - getting groceries, visiting friends and family, picking up prescriptions, getting to church and the library - the list is endless.
However, what happens when age and increasing physical limitations make driving dangerous?
Donnybrook Automotive has a personal relationship with our clients. As your mechanics, your car safety is our number one priority.
We know that having a meaningful conversation about an elderly loved one quitting driving is one of the most difficult conversations to have. It’s especially hard trying to keep this type of conversation light.
As your experienced, trusted local mechanics, we believe this talk shouldn’t be put off, but that it’s also possible to keep it from being too difficult and heavy.
While your loved one must understand it’s not just a matter of their safety, but also other people’s, it’s also good to focus on the positive.
In today’s world, there are many transportation options for elderly people who should no longer drive. Focusing on the positives, rather than the negatives, in a conversation like this can make a big difference.
We’ve put together a list of things we hope will be helpful for your loved one and you when it’s time to talk about when it’s time to stop driving.
Issues you should watch out for when it comes to questioning whether someone should be driving:
· Braking suddenly and/or without reason. As mechanics, this makes us cringe because it’s bad for the brakes. However, there’s also a danger sudden braking can lead to being rear-ended by another vehicle. Too often, elderly drivers become nervous and push the brake or accelerator without meaning to. Sudden braking or accelerating is a recipe for an accident. Especially in traffic.
· Watch to see if your loved one changes lanes suddenly, drives between lanes, or has a tendency to cross the lines. Increased age can cause difficulty focusing or seeing the lines, which can create dangerous shifts between lanes or even off the road, leading to accidents.
· Are they driving through stop signs or traffic lights? Running lights or stop signs can be a dangerous sign of trouble seeing or focusing that can cause an accident that impacts both the driver and the people around them.
· Does your loved one experience anxiety and/or confusion when driving, especially in increased traffic? The fast speed of city traffic can be especially scary and dangerous for elderly drivers and cause them to make potentially fatal mistakes.
· Do they seem to be having trouble seeing bikers, signs, pedestrians, and other cars?
· Do they become confused over directions, get lost easily and often, or exhibit general disorientation when driving?
· Do they use their turn signals properly and on time?
· Are they getting pulled over, increased traffic tickets, and having more close calls when it comes to accidents?
While your loved one might not tell you about these incidents, it will become obvious in their insurance. That being said, it’s also important to be familiar with the kind of insurance policy your elderly loved ones have in the event of an accident.
Are there present or developing medical issues?
· How is their eyesight? Do they have difficulty seeing signs, lights, blinkers, bikers, pedestrians, etc.? Do they have difficulty seeing at night?
· Stiff joints or arthritis can make a difference when it comes to turning the steering wheel suddenly, switching between the gas and brake pedal, or turning to see a blind spot.
· Do they have increasing difficulty hearing? Hearing loss could lead to them not hear noises from their vehicle, hearing someone signaling or warning by honking their horn, or hearing sirens from emergency vehicles.
· Aging in general leads to slower reflexes and reaction times. The slowing down of both these functions can impact braking and anticipating space between cars. Both crucial when it comes to preventing accidents.
Having the Conversation and Keeping it Light:
· Because taking away someone’s driving privileges is such a touchy subject, you might want to enlist the help of an outside party to help make the decision.
Enquire if your elderly loved one would be open to the idea of taking a driving assessment.
A third party—the DMV—would assess their driving, meaning the ultimate decision would be out of your hands. You and your loved one can visit the DMV together, take the test, and let it evaluate their driving. · Perhaps their driving isn’t that bad yet, but it’s getting there. Ask if they would be willing to keep their driving skills up to date and take a Senior Driving Course. Senior Driving Courses are designed for senior citizens, and they focus on their specific needs and issues specific to their age.
· If you’ve exhausted all your options, there’s always the option to contact the authorities. Get in touch with the DMV with their driver’s license number, license plate number, date of birth, and documented specifics as to why you think they’re an unsafe driver. Include any and all factual information to support your claim, such as tickets, a medical condition, insurance records, etc.
When it’s the time in someone’s life for them to stop driving, it can too easily lead to emotions of isolation and depression.
Before you talk with them, imagine yourself in their position. How will you feel when it’s time for you to stop driving?