The ability to drive provides seniors with a sense of freedom and independence that is life affirming. However, in many cases, physical and mental issues may arise that make continuing to drive a dangerous situation for the senior. Often, the senior is not willing to admit to handicaps that may make driving hazardous for themselves and others on the road. Here are a few common signs that it’s time to give up the car keys and rely on other methods of transportation:
Frequent Traffic Tickets or Auto Insurance Changes
If the senior seems to be piling up traffic tickets, or if vehicle insurance seems to be increasing steadily, these signs indicate that the senior is having driving problems and should be evaluated. Taking a drive with the senior can tell you whether he or she is having trouble concentrating, cannot see properly, has poor judgment, or is otherwise becoming a hazard to himself or others.
Visible Damage to the Senior’s Vehicle
Give the senior’s vehicle a visual assessment to see if there are any dents, chipped paint or other signs of damage. The senior may be unaware that damage has occurred because of hearing or vision issues. More than one damaged area is a good indication that driving should be curtailed.
If the senior is having difficulty getting in and out of the car, cannot turn around sufficiently to see behind him or cannot manipulate the car's controls, it’s time to give up driving and rely on friends or public transportation to get to shopping and necessary appointments.
Observations from Friends or Neighbors
Family members can talk to close friends or neighbors of the senior to get their observations on driving ability. If these individuals tell of noticeable problems with driving ability, it’s time to find other transportation arrangements for the senior.
Driving Behavior Changes
If you take a drive with the senior and he or she seems confused, timid about driving, unable to read signs, or seems to drift between lanes, these signs indicate that physical or mental impairments may be affecting the ability to drive safely. Similarly, impaired reaction time when driving can be a serious hazard.
Confusion or Getting Lost
If the senior appears to be confused by stoplights, traffic signs or landmarks, it may be an indication that they are no longer mentally capable of driving. Similarly, if a senior has to call a friend or family member because they have gotten lost and can’t find their way back home, he or she should probably not be driving anymore. Some seniors get lost and are too proud to ask family for help to get home. They may rely on strangers to lead them back home. If the senior relates this type of story, it’s time to give up driving and find safer modes of transportation.
Giving up driving can be a difficult adjustment for seniors. Appealing to the senior's sense of civic responsibility can help to ease the way to depending on others for transportation needs.