Elderly Driver Safety - When Should You Take the Keys?

Elderly Driver Safety – Should You Take the Keys Away From Dad?

For most of your life, your car has given you a sense of independence and freedom to go where you want, whenever you want. Elderly driver safety is important, and there are many signs in which to look for that help you determine if Dad is having trouble while he is out driving. Becoming a senior does not mean that driving is off limits, but ensuring safety on the road is essential to save the life of your parent and others on the road.

While everyone ages at a different rate, there are some indicators to look for when determining if Dad needs to find other modes of transportation. Research indicates that adults over 70 years of age are more prone to fatal accidents, which are caused by a variety of elderly driver safety related issues. Such issues include:

Elderly Driver Safety
  • Slower reaction time As Dad ages, his reaction time will gradually slow down. This poses a problem with defensive driving, as he is slower to react to situations on the road, such as cars moving around him, sudden slowing down of traffic or drivers that may pull out in front of him.

  • Soreness in the neck If Dad is experiencing soreness around his neck, it limits his ability to turn and check for traffic in blind spots or look behind his shoulder to merge onto streets or freeways.

  • * Limited mobility of arms and legs When Dad has limited use of his arms and legs, it makes it harder for him to effectively turn a steering wheel, apply pressure to the brakes or gas pedals or move his foot between the pedals safely.

  • Diminished attention span Defensive driving entails watching cars around you, but it also requires that you constantly pay attention to signs, road markings and pedestrians around the road.

While any of these issues can creep up on Dad gradually, a few health-related issues need to be monitored to determine if Dad needs someone to drive him on his errands. If Dad is taking a new medication, watch him for signs of drowsiness or slowed movement. Taking multiple medications can also cause his cognitive abilities to slow down, so for his safety, find him alternate modes of transportation. Other signs to look for include:

  • Hearing or Eyesight problems Vision and hearing are two important factors of driving and can help you avoid an accident. If Dad is unable to see street signs or lights, or not be able to hear emergency vehicles coming up behind him, there is an increased danger while on the road.
Elderly Driver Safety Scene of Car Wreck
  • Memory Trouble If Dad increasingly forgets where he is driving to, misses streets or exits or even gets lost, you might suggest that someone begin driving him to his destinations. Take Dad to a doctor to determine what the issue is, as it may be something he can improve.

  • Range of Motion limitations Just as defensive driving requires attention, vision and hearing, it is vital that Dad has the proper reflexes and range of motion to protect himself and drivers around him at a moment’s notice. If Dad is slow to react to stepping on the brake, accidentally presses the gas or brake instead of the proper pedal, becomes agitated or flustered while driving or is unable to fully observe a situation around him, you might want to gently suggest that someone drive him around on his errands.

Determining if Dad should no longer be behind the wheel also depends on whether he is bumping into things while pulling into the driveway or garage, or on the receiving end of an increased number of driving citations or tickets.

Simply driving more recklessly, such as speeding, braking suddenly, or moving from lane to lane without using a blinker or checking the blind spot is also cause for concern.

While it may be hard to bring up the subject of elderly driver safety and Dad’s driving ability, it is important to remind him there are various resources to use so he does not feel limited in his independence. Public transportation is one solution, and many city senior programs offer a shuttle for a monthly nominal fee to help local seniors get where they are going.

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