Figuring out when it’s time for a loved one to stop driving is one of the tougher challenges a family can face. Driving can give a person a great deal of independence, which is an increasingly precious commodity as we get older. While you don’t want to make your parents miserable by taking away their keys, you don’t want to see them get into a serious accident, either. But how do you know when it’s time to intervene?
Seniors and Safe Driving
Even if you have five decades of experience behind the wheel, you’re going to be a danger on the road if your eyesight and reflexes aren’t up to the task of driving. Safe drivers need to be able to make snap decisions. When debris blows onto the road or someone makes an unexpected turn, the difference between a close call and a total disaster is often decided in less than two seconds. Age only makes our vision and reaction time worse, which is why 80-year-old drivers get into just as many accidents as 18-year-old drivers.
Fortunately, it’s easy to spot many of the signs that it’s time to quit driving. When a driver becomes easily distracted, has trouble maintaining the correct lane, has significantly impaired vision, tends to drive too fast or too slow, or starts hitting curbs frequently, these are warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored. If you don’t spend much time in the car with your loved one, the signs you’re looking for might be minor scrapes or dents appearing in the car or garage.
Life after Driving
Giving up driving can lead to emotional, physical, and pragmatic concerns about how to get around. Seniors are already at-risk for isolation and depression, and making it more difficult to get around can only worsen outcomes. A 2006 study found seniors who had hung-up their keys were about five times more likely to end up in long-term care compared to those who were still driving.
And it’s easy to see why. Imagine you spontaneously want to catch a movie, or go out to dinner with a friend. If your only means of getting around is asking someone to drive you, or using scheduled transportation, then you’re probably out of luck. Nobody wants to feel like they’re imposing on their family or friends, especially not every time they want to go out on a whim.
For older drivers who are looking to stay off the road, popular apps like Lyft or Uber can help provide safe transportation on demand. And for a more permanent solution, in-home caregivers can address these issues on multiple fronts by providing both transportation and companionship. Either option is far better than needlessly endangering lives with risky driving.
What the Law Says
Most states don’t have laws that specifically require older drivers to undergo additional driving testing. Legal authorities are generally powerless to strip someone of their right to drive until they’ve actually done harm. What that means is that more often than not, families have to work out these issues for themselves. Telling someone it’s time to hang-up their keys is a tough topic to broach, but ignoring the signs it’s time to quit is a mistake many people don’t live to regret.
Have you had to take the keys from a loved one? What was the hardest part of the situation for you? What was the hardest part of the situation for them and how do they now get around? Let us know in the comments below.