“Mom had two fender benders this year—I wonder if she is safe behind the wheel?”
As seniors experience the normal changes of aging and health conditions such as arthritis, vision problems and memory loss, they often wonder if it’s safe to keep driving. Family members wonder, too, and they often pressure an older loved one to give up the car keys before the senior wants to!
But the decision to stop driving shouldn’t be made lightly. Studies show driving keeps seniors independent and active in the community. Older adults who give up the car keys can sink into inactivity and depression. Before making the decision, the first step is to have the senior’s driving skills assessed. Ask the doctor for a driving safety evaluation recommendation.
Sometimes a senior’s driving skills aren’t the problem—it’s that they aren’t driving the right car! It might help to equip the car with extra safety equipment, such as better mirrors and a thicker steering wheel. But seniors who are still driving a beloved, familiar 20-year-old car might not realize that safety features have come a long way since then! A lot of gadgets that are standard in today’s cars can provide an extra measure of safety for older drivers. These include technology to warn the driver of a potential collision or lane departure, backup and side mirror cameras, and navigation assistance. The American Automobile Association (AAA) can help select the right car for a senior’s needs and limitations.
There might be a learning curve as a senior driver adjusts to these new technologies—what, no key? But these safety features can extend their driving years. A senior driver’s ed class also can improve their skills.
And if the doctor or a driving specialist says a senior is no longer safe driving under any circumstances, it’s very important to create an alternative transportation plan. Learn about public transportation, ridesharing services, and accessible transportation. Senior living communities also offer transportation to keep their residents active and connected. Don’t let giving up the keys lead to giving up an active life in the community.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your health care provider. Ask the doctor for a recommendation for a driving skills assessment.