When seniors’ driving becomes unsafe

Posted on October 7, 2012

Mrs. D’s family was becoming increasingly anxious about her driving.  Her daughter pleaded with her to stop driving; worried about safety due to her mother’s declining vision and forgetfulness. Mrs. D refused. However, she did agree to only drive to familiar places, not drive at night and never drive in bad weather.  That wasn’t enough. One day while driving to her daughter’s home, Mrs. D. drove down a one-way street the wrong way, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with a car driven by a pregnant, young mother.  

Having conversations with your loved one about driving safety can be very difficult. No question this is a tough discussion to have, but it must be done in a timely, supportive and proactive manner to ensure their safety and the safety of others. Here are some pointers about when and how to have the conversation.

Red Flags: Are pain, stiffness, decreased motor skills and slowed reaction time limiting your loved one’s ability to drive safely and his/her ability to react quickly in emergency situations? Are problems with memory, forgetfulness and judgment interfering with driving safety? Is vision and/or hearing loss compromising driving ability? Are effects/interactions of medications reducing the ability to drive safely?

Action Plan: Have a factual conversation with your loved one, identifying your safety concerns and providing specific examples.  Acknowledge the difficulty inherent in the loss of driving independence. Offer a plan to objectively assess the safety of your loved one’s driving ability and provide transportation alternatives and on-going support as needed.

Getting Help: Discuss your concerns with your loved one’s physician. Ask for a medical evaluation, e.g., vision and hearing evaluation, review of medications and cognitive testing to assess his/her driving safety.

Get a professional assessment of driving ability. Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists

Take this self-evaluation inventory of driving skills. http://www.aaafoundation.org/quizzes/index.cfm?button=driver55

Review this workbook for help with driving-related decisions. http://www.keepingussafe.org/beyonddrivingwithdignityworkbook.htm

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