There are more senior drivers on the roads today than ever before. Between 2009 and 2018, the number of Americans aged 65 and older increased by a staggering 32% in the U.S. Unfortunately, the crash fatalities in this age group also increased 30% during that time frame.
While falling in this age bracket doesn’t necessarily mean a person is no longer fit to drive, it does mean it may be time to start paying closer attention to your senior loved one’s driving abilities. At a certain point, aging does cause noticable changes to a person’s driving. It’s essential to recognize when that time comes and know how to approach the topic delicately with your older loved one.
Considerations before talking to a loved one
It isn’t always easy to know when a senior is no longer capable of driving safely. You don’t want your loved one to become defensive or force them to give up their independence, but you also don’t want to jeopardize their safety on the roads.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, answering these questions can help you decide when it’s time to talk about driving:
- Is your loved one getting lost on familiar routes?
- Do they have new scratches or dents in their vehicle?
- Are they speeding or driving too slowly?
- Have they received recent tickets for driving violations?
- Has a doctor advised that they limit their driving?
- Are they taking any new medications that will affect driving?
- Have they had several recent “near misses” on the road?
Answering “yes” to any of these questions may mean it’s time to have a conversation with your older loved one about their driving abilities.
Approaching the conversation
If you believe your loved one’s safety is at risk behind the wheel, you should try to approach the conversation with compassion and empathy. You can present your concerns about what you have observed and work together to develop a plan that keeps them safe and mobile. This can include undergoing a formal driving evaluation to identify how they can continue to drive safely, relying on public transportation or getting rides with family and friends.
Giving up driving is a major life change that many seniors may not feel ready for, but it’s essential to have a conversation before it becomes a problem. Making a plan now can ensure your loved one stays safe behind the wheel.