It’s natural to be anxious about the driving abilities of an elderly member in your family. Statistics show that older drivers, mostly those above the age of 70, are at a greater risk of being in car crashes, as well as being in fatal car crashes. The numbers for them are worse than those for the teens in this country.
If you have parents or friends that are approaching their golden years, they may have to take stock of their driving abilities. It may not be easy, especially after a lifetime of confident driving, but you can help them with it so that they remain safe on the road.
Make It Easy for Them
Apart from increased inconvenience and a loss of confidence, there is also a loss of pride associated with one’s declining ability to drive.
That which you had been able to do all your life without a second thought, suddenly looks intimidating, almost impossible to scale. And you suspect things will only get worse for you if you don’t fight them.
You can make this transition easier for your parents by:
• Being empathetic to them
• Setting a few rules for them
• Helping them buy a senior-friendly car
• Reminding them frequently to ensure their car is in good condition
• Loading their smartphone with helpful apps and teaching them how to use these apps
• Setting up their phone with numbers to contact in case of emergency
Frequently Accompany Them on Short Trips
The best way to gauge the extent to which someone’s driving and coordination skills have deteriorated is by accompanying them on short trips frequently.
Older drivers tend to suffer from slower reflexes, which puts them at a greater risk of running into vehicles or bikes that appear in front of them from seemingly nowhere.
Also, with age one’s eyesight worsens, and one starts missing road signs. By accompanying your parents on short trips you can study their driving. You will be able to notice if they have been missing any signs or if their reflexes have indeed slowed down. Do they still remember all the shortcuts or is their memory turning out to be more unreliable with each passing day? How are they gauging the distance between vehicles? Are they ignoring traffic signs, or not giving other cars their right-of-way?
When you take full stock of the situation you will be in a better position to ascertain if their driving abilities have worsened considerably or if they are still doing rather well.
Not everybody suffers a dip in the quality of their driving after a certain age. If you find your parents are driving as well as they used to, albeit a little slower than usual, let them continue driving.
If, however, you have seen anything that is cause for alarm, suggest them to undertake defensive driving classes for seniors or set down rules to keep them safe.
Set Rules to Aid Their Driving
A few simple rules can go a long way to keep your elderly family members safe on the road. Consider the following:
• No driving after dark
• No driving for long hours
• No driving during rush hour
• No driving just after they have taken their medication
• No driving on days they are not feeling well
• No driving during bad weather
• Avoid driving to unknown places
It helps to spend time with senior citizens in your family that you are genuinely concerned about since that is the only way to establish exactly where they are faltering and the rate at which their driving-related abilities are deteriorating.
While some elderly folks are able to gauge their loss of ability on their own and decide not to put themselves in harm’s way, others have a hard time recognizing or accepting that. You would have to be even more patients with them and point out the practical dangers of them driving to assuage their hurt pride. Taking away their keys and restricting access to driving should be the last resort.