Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully

Older drivers are expected to outlive their driving ability by 7-10 years. Aging brings about changes in vision, ability to react quickly, attention, and the ability to physically move to control the car. 

However, it is important to maximize the ability of seniors to continue driving because many do not have access to public transportation, volunteer rides, or family available to help.  Many families are faced with the question, “How do we know if Dad is unsafe to be on the road?” Asking questions about these issues may help you decide if you need to initiate a conversation about driving.

1.  Getting lost on routes that should be familiar.

2.  Noticing new dents or scratches to the vehicle.

3.  Receiving tickets for a driving violation.

4.  Experiencing an accident or near misses.

5.  Speeding or driving too slowly for no reason.

6.  Any physical or mental conditions that may affect driving skills.

If any of the above are true, it is important to have a caring, respectful, and non-confrontational conversation. Show genuine concern and understanding, and offer viable alternatives that will not injure the older driver’s self-respect and sense of independence.

With concrete examples, you can help them consider approaches to focus the conversation on resolving the issues and preserving independence. Focus on safe conditions as opposed to restrictions and develop a plan to achieve the safe conditions.  For example:

· If vision is limited at night due to cataracts, drive during the day.

· Evaluation by an OT/Driver Rehab Specialist will allow a plan for interventions and for any adaptive feature to the vehicle and fit the car to the adult (Seat/back cushions, panoramic mirrors, pedal extenders, etc.).

· Explore alternative ways to get around – Happier At Home, Lyft, Uber, etc.

· AAA has a “Safe Driving for Mature Operators” refresher course.

· Keep the car for someone else to drive the adult around in.