With age comes wisdom. But other, less desirable changes, also begin to appear as we grow older. Some of these changes can have a negative impact on our ability to drive safely. Minor concerns, such as slightly-diminished vision, can be remedied by wearing driving glasses or by avoiding driving at night. However, some more serious physical and cognitive issues can make driving extremely dangerous. How do you know when it’s time to hang up the keys for good?
A Difficult Conversation
For many people, driving is synonymous with independence, the freedom to come and go as we please. As such, the decision to stop driving can be highly emotional, especially when that decision isn’t initiated by the driver but by a friend or family member. Telling your parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle that it’s time to hand over the keys can be a traumatic, and anxiety-inducing experience.
But the conversation needs to happen. Many lives are lost every year, in Boston and across the country, because people couldn’t bring themselves to have this difficult conversation with their elderly loved one. In some cases, the driving challenges are strictly related to age, such as deteriorating vision or severe arthritis. However, other issues may be related to medications. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about how his or her medications may affect the ability to drive safely.
Simply being over a certain age does not mean an individual can no longer drive safely. Most elderly drivers are good drivers with a low rate of accidents. Individual circumstances are important to consider. For example, the vision of an 80-year-old man may be significantly better than that of his 55-year-old son. But, in general, our ability to see well and react quickly diminishes over time. For that reason, it is crucial to look for danger signs if you suspect that your elderly loved one is having difficulty driving safely. Watch out for the danger signs below – your vigilance will help keep Massachusetts roads safer for everyone.
Signs of Dangerous Driving Behaviors
- Dents and scratches on the vehicle
- Loved one becomes easily lost, even in familiar areas
- Complaints from other people
- Loved one has lots of “close calls”
- Sudden increase in traffic tickets
- Loved one seems frustrated, angry, or agitated after driving
- Loved one has difficulty judging distance between vehicles, or on exit and entrance ramps on the highway
- While driving, loved one becomes easily distracted or has difficulty concentrating
In some cases, simply changing driving habits may solve the problem. A good first step is to reduce or eliminate night driving, driving in adverse weather, and driving on the highway. In other cases, taking the keys away for good is the only safe option. The most important thing is to have the conversation with your loved one before it is too late. Continue reading