We all have family and friends who are older drivers, whether they are our parents, grandparents or even our neighbors. We want all our loved ones to be safe on the road. But as we age, it’s normal for everyone’s driving skills to diminish.
At Fried Rogers Goldberg in Atlanta, we believe that seniors can take some specific steps and precautions to drive safer as they age. Our attorneys also know that we must be more aware of the driving skills of our aging friends and family. Knowing when and how to talk with an older driver about driving less or more safely is important, and it does not have to signal the end of a driver’s independence.
How Does Aging Affect Driving?
Because we all age differently, there is no clear cutoff date or age for when someone should stop driving. Statistics have showed, however, that fatal crash rates rise sharply after drivers turn 70 years old.
Aging reduces strength, coordination and flexibility, all of which can have a major affect on driving. For example, stiffer necks make it harder for a driver to turn and look left to right to check for pedestrians. Weaker arms make if harder to turn steering wheels. Slowed reactions times make it harder to avoid hazards.
Older drivers take pride in their ability to drive – and they should. It just may be up to you to illustrate to them how their skills may be decreasing.
Tips for Senior Drivers
- Get your eyes checks regularly. Eye checks should be done every year. When it comes to visibility, it’s also important to keep windshields, mirrors and headlights clean, and to turn up the brightness on your car’s instrument panel.
- Have your hearing checked every year. If you need a hearing aid, make sure it is in when you drive.
- Talk with your doctor. Effects of medications can greatly impact anyone’s ability to drive. Speak with your doctor about whether any medications you take or any physical ailments may affect your driving.
- Sleep well. Being a well-rested driver means being a safe driver.
- Find the right car for you. Older drivers should always have cars with automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes. Also make sure your car is checked regularly by a reputable mechanic.
- Drive defensively. Leave extra space for cars in front of you, pay extra attention at intersections and drive with the flow of traffic.
- Know your limits. If any driving situation makes your uncomfortable, don’t get behind the wheel. There is nothing wrong with only wanting to drive during the day because your vision is too poor at night to feel safe on the road. If fast-moving traffic is making you too nervous, avoid highways and take regular roads.
Warning Signs of Unsafe Driving
Older drivers can often be unwilling to admit to themselves that they cannot drive like they used to. This is why it’s critical that loves ones like you watch for the following signs that a senior’s driving skills may be deteriorating:
Eyesight problems. If someone is having any trouble seeing, it’s going to impact his or her driving. Even a slight drop in someone’s ability to see traffic lights and street signals could lead to a serious accident. If an older driver is driving closer to signs and signals in order to read them, it can mean that their vision is becoming poor.
- Hearing problems. Decreased hearing can make it hard for elderly drivers to hear sirens or horns.
- Issues with reflexes. If someone you know is reacting slower, it can put them in harm’s way on the road. Not having proper reflexes to brake quickly or react fast in other driving situations is extremely dangerous.
- Memory loss. Many older people will have problems with their memory, but if someone is experiencing a pattern of memory loss, it could signal a loss of cognitive ability that may get a driver lost and/or reduce their driving capacity.
- Problems with the basics. If a driver is constantly drifting in and out of lanes, braking or accelerating for no reason, or failing to use turn signals, their driving ability is likely diminishing.
- Citations and close calls. Almost crashing, getting dents and scrapes and receiving multiple tickets by law enforcement as an aging driver is a sign that person is not as able to drive as safely as they used to.
How to Speak with A Loved One About Driving Concerns
Approaching any older person you love about their driving is going to be a sensitive topic. Even aging drivers who know their skills are slipping will be reluctant to give up driving.
It’s critical to be extremely respectful. Driving is so closely linked to independence that any thought of their driver’s license being take away can cause older drivers to act defensive.
When making a case why someone should drive less or not at all, always have specific examples on hand. This will go a long way in illustrating your case. If you can, try to have more than one family member who agrees with you around for the talk.
Also always be ready to suggest alternatives to driving. If you are suggesting an older driver give up his or her ability to take themselves to the store or to church, then you should suggest an alternative to how they will get around.
Be clear that there are advantages to giving up or reducing driving. Public transportation is cheap and saves on gas and car insurance. Ride sharing and carpools help encourage social activity. Health can be improved with more walking as well.
Approaching the subject of how driving is impacting an older person you love needs to be taken both seriously and delicately. Encouraging safe driving tips will help give you peace of mind, keep your loved ones safer and make the roads safer for everyone as well.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident, contact Fried Rogers Goldberg today at (404) 591-1800 or contact us online. Our consultations are always free, and we’re always standing by ready to help.