Senior Drivers - When is it Time to Give up the Keys?

Senior Drivers: When Is It Time To Give Up The Keys?

Has it come to the point that you're not that comfortable driving with Mom or Dad anymore? Do you avoid situations that put your children into Mom or Dad's car? If you answered yes to either of these questions, it may be time to consider whether Mom or Dad is a safe driver, both for their own safety as well as the safety of others on the road.

Newly licensed drivers and older drivers pose an increased risk for accidents. Drivers over 85 years of age are at an increased risk of their own death due to a driving accident, according to the AAA Foundation.

senior drivers

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As we age, our reaction times may slow down. Contributing factors such as medication, dementia and lack of attention or perception, vision acuity and hearing lead to an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents involving seniors. The driving ability and perception of senior drivers should be determined on an individualized basis. There are many seniors driving on the road today who have never had an accident and are much more careful drivers than any other age group.

Accident statistics involving senior drivers are determined by where they live and how often or how far they travel from home on a daily basis. Some seniors only drive a mile or two a day to take care of errands such as doctor's appointments or grocery shopping. Others must travel greater distances for the same reasons. While it has been determined that the older an individual, the higher the risk of personal injury or death, oddly enough, the chance of other passengers or vehicles being involved in such accidents decrease.

Senior Driving Facts

According to the AAA Foundation, drivers are considered safe until they reach about 65 to 70 years of age. At about 65, driver risks gradually increase, with a high rate of increased accident or vehicle damage following age 75. As mentioned earlier, senior drivers over 85 have the highest rate of increased risk of death due to a motor vehicle accident, most probably due to current health conditions and vulnerabilities.

In order to determine whether your parent should still be driving, ask yourself, and them, a number of questions. Factor in if they have had any changes in their medical condition in the past year. A natural decrease of vision may require the use of prescription eyeglasses or limiting night driving. Have reflexes or flexibility slowed down? What about hearing? While you can adjust habits to continue safe driving, every senior and family member should be able to recognize limitations and be aware of changes that may have a definite impact on driving ability and reaction time.

senior drivers

Elderly drivers over 65 years of age should ask themselves these questions:

  • Do you always wear a seat belt?
  • Do you always signal and check over your shoulder when you change lanes?
  • Do you drive slower than you used to, with increased hesitance to get on the freeway?
  • Do you find yourself flustered at four-way stop signs or intersections because they're so active?
  • Does your mind wander when you're driving?
  • Do you obtain regular eye exams to keep track of changes in your vision?
  • Do you know which medications you take that may make you feel fuzzy or slow your reaction time?
  • Do family or friends hesitate to get in the car with you?
  • Have you had any traffic stops, warnings or traffic tickets issued to you within the past year or two?
  • Have you had any "fender benders," minor or major accidents or collisions in the past one or two years?

It can be very difficult to convince an elderly driver who is used to his or her own independence to stop driving.

Taking the car keys away from a senior may have a definite and negative impact on their self-confidence, self-image, and independence, but may save their life or the lives of others. Before broaching the topic of driving with your parent, consider different approaches that may be best served to keep them and everyone else, safe and sound. 

Senior Insurance


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