Driving is freedom. Losing the ability to drive can be devastating for anyone. The ability to take care of oneself, to have no need to rely on anyone and to come and go as they please is one of the greatest examples of the kind of freedom that driving allows. Keeping that in mind, how do we know when it is time to consider telling an aging loved one that their driving days are over? Beyond that what can be done to help them cope with that decision?
This conversation might be the most difficult of any you’ve had with your parents or grandparents. Keep in mind that neither of you are alone. Even recent international news brought up the subject of aging drivers. After being involved in a car crash while driving, Prince Philip was soon convinced to give up his keys at the age of 97. Around 20% of American drivers are over 65 years of age though within that age range very few have been responsible for any kind of accident. The rate of crash related deaths sees a significant increase for those over 75 years of age, even more so for those over 80. Here in Missouri, 2017 saw accidents involving drivers over 65 result in 183 deaths and 736 severe injuries. Keep in mind however, health conditions that can impair driving can happen at any age, so exactly how do you know when it is time to intervene?
The good news is According to AAA, most senior drivers decide themselves to change their own driving habits. Many begin by avoiding high traffic times of the day, driving in bad weather and often keeping within a small range of travel. Also, in the state of Missouri, drivers over 70 are required to renew their license every three years to ensure their eyesight is sufficient for safe driving and the ability to recognize road signs. If there is still concern regarding a loved one’s safety on the road, AAA offers the following list of reasons to insure that a loved one no longer drives:
Delayed response to unexpected situations
Becoming easily distracted while driving
Decrease in confidence while driving
Having difficulty moving into or maintaining the correct lane of traffic
Hitting curbs when making right turns or backing up
Getting scrapes or dents on car, garage or mailbox
Having frequent close calls
Driving too fast or too slow for road conditions” ~ AARP.org Kyle Rakow
This article also includes this link for a free online seminar on how best to have that conversation. When and if this moment occurs remember to be empathetic to what they will be experiencing, the loss of what will feel like a main source of independence. Allow them to be a part of the plan for new means of getting around. It is also important to note that getting to doctor’s visits and the grocery store is just as important to your loved ones health as maintaining friendships and social opportunities.
Do the best you can to find out what their normal life routine is before driving abilities are removed to ensure they aren’t left in a lonely situation afterwards. Where again it might be one of the most difficult moments in your relationship with your loved ones, remember the loving care you have for each other will see you through just as it always has.
Blog References: Department of Transportation, Centers for Disease Control, Missouri Department of Transportation
Blog by: Allison Green