For most, driving a car is more than just being physically and mentally capable of operating a vehicle. Instead, it is a means to independence. Driving provides a way to choose your own activities, connect with others, and travel at ease. Most Americans rely on driving to get through their daily activities, so then what happens when driving becomes dangerous due to age and physical limitations? How do you know when it’s time for your loved one to stop driving? If you’re wondering whether driving has become too risky and it’s time to put the keys away, keep an eye out for the common warning signs.
Unsafe Driving Warning Signs
1. Increase in Traffic Tickets
Has there been a recent increase in traffic violations or warnings? If driving has become more erratic or haphazard, the police may have noticed. If you don’t feel comfortable asking this question of a loved one, a more subtle approach may be asking if their car insurance rates have increased lately. If the answer is yes, then additional tickets and violations may be to blame.
2. Changes in Driving Behavior
Does your loved one seem more anxious or apprehensive to get into the car to drive? They may be aware that driving is becoming more of a challenge but are hesitant to say anything just yet. When in the car, notice if your loved one seems more tense, worried, or preoccupied. Do they still perform the basic safety tasks, like fastening their seatbelt and using a blinker? Are they aware of road signs, traffic lights, and the vehicles around them? Does their reaction time seem slower, and do they stay safely in their lane?
3. Damage to the Vehicle
Are there extra dents and scratches on your loved one’s vehicle? They may be struggling more to make turns, park, and correctly assess the conditions of the road like they used to.
4. Friends’ and Neighbors’ Observances
If you are wondering if your loved one is still safe behind the wheel but can’t be with them all the time to observe their behavior, call their friends and neighbors. Often times, those close to the driver will notice changes in behavior that may need your attention.
If you observe problems or hear from others that your loved one may no longer be safe on the road, it’s time to address the issue at hand.
Tips on Starting the Conversation
It’s normal to experience symptoms that make driving more difficult as we age, such as loss of vision, hearing impairment, dementia, other health conditions, and even prescription drug use. Almost everyone, at some point in life, will need to make the decision to stop driving. If it’s time to address the issue with your loved one, approach the (often emotional) topic with care.
1. Start Early
If you’ve noticed small warning signs, you may be able to suggest giving up certain aspects of driving, such as driving at night and driving long distances. Starting early and making small changes first will help ease your loved one into the transition of no longer getting behind the wheel. Don’t wait until it’s become a serious health risk or a traumatic accident has occurred.
2. Lead with Understanding
Acknowledge that this is a difficult topic and negative emotions may be surrounding it. Keep the conversation focused on the facts. If you’ve noticed unsafe driving habits, identify the incidents instead of focusing on the age or health of the individual. Remain calm throughout the conversation and give your loved one space to share their response and input.
3. Visit the DMV
If talking with your loved one feels fruitless, a visit to the DMV may be helpful. Have your loved one take a driving and vision test or enroll them in a refresher course for older drivers. However, be prepared for the chance they do pass the driving test and are allowed to remain on the road. Bringing up the idea of no longer driving may be more difficult after authorities have given them the green light.
4. Offer Transportation Alternatives
Do a little research beforehand and have a list of alternatives they can use to get around. Talk to family and friends and look up transportation services to see where help may be available. Additional ideas are listed below.
Thankfully, there are several safe transportation alternatives one can take if driving has become too dangerous. In large cities, public transportation can get you to where you want to go. Even in more rural areas, there are often buses, taxis, or cars for hire. Many communities have senior transportation services available for a small fee. Or perhaps it’s time to put the transportation worries to rest and make the move to a senior living community, where transportation services are often available. At Snyder Village, a life plan community in Metamora, IL, residents can secure rides to appointments, outings, and errands. Snyder Village Home Care also offers transportation services to people needing help within Peoria, Woodford, Tazewell, and Marshall Counties.
If you believe your loved one has reached the point where driving is dangerous, it’s never too early to start the conversation about whether they should be on the road. Afterall, their safety and the safety of others depends on it.
Snyder Village in Metamora is a life plan community that offers independent living in its cottages and apartments. Snyder Village also features assisted living, memory care, and a health center along with physical therapy on site. Its home care services support residents in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, and Marshall Counties. For more information, call (309) 367-4300 or visit www.snydervillage.com.