School’s out and that means a whole slew of new teen drivers will be on the road. While the thought of a 16-year-old behind the wheel makes me nervous, senior drivers who have not recently evaluated their driving skills can also make me run for cover.
June is National Safety Month and the National Safety Council has designated this year’s theme as "Safety: It takes all of us," and was inspired by the idea of continuous risk reduction. The Council’s emphasis this year is on putting an end to distracted driving but I think its a great time to revisit the challenges facing the mature driver.
It’s been written that “Adult children would rather talk to parents about funeral plans than about taking away the car keys.” It’s a difficult conversation—many seniors associate driving with independence (that they don’t want to relinquish.) For the adult children of driving seniors, revoking that driving privilege can mean picking up the slack and becoming chauffeur to mom or dad, at least until Google’s self-driving car becomes available.
So how do you know if it’s time to take away the keys, or are there steps to ensure the senior can hang on to those keys just a little longer?
Caregiverlist® provides our own Safe Driving Checklist. We’ve provided some basic red-flags that might mean it’s time to reexamine a senior's on-road capabilities. These include:
- Vision: Is the senior able to pass a vision test? (Cataracts, Glaucoma and Macular Degeneration can all impact vision quality).
- Are there any unexplained dents in the paint of the car or on the garage?
- Does the senior allow others to ride in the car with them when they are driving?
- Does the senior seem nervous or extra anxious when driving? Does the senior take alternate routes to avoid major highways?
- Does the senior fail to stop at red lights or stop signs?
- Are speed limits obeyed (Not driving too slow or too fast)?
- Have neighbors or others who see the senior driving (anyone who also attends a regular event they may drive to) observed anything unsafe?
Also, talk to their physician to see if any of their medications can affect their driving ability.
If the above are not at issue and your senior is feels relatively safe to drive, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor vehicles suggests some self-imposed limitations which may include driving only during daylight hours, staying home when weather conditions are poor, avoiding rush hour, and driving less.
AAA, the leader in driver safety, offers many online tools to evaluate and improve senior driving skills. They also suggest taking driver improvement courses. These can teach older drivers how to adjust for slower reflexes, weaker vision and other changes. Taking and passing a comprehensive driving improvement course can result in potential discounts on insurance premiums.
It’s important that seniors realize the risks associated with accidents. Statistics say drivers age 85 and older are injured or killed in crashes at a higher rate than any other age group. This is due primarily to increased fragility that comes with age. Older senior drivers are generally less able to withstand the forces of a crash, so they are more likely to become injured.
Effective September 30, 2010, drivers 75 years of age or older can only renew a driver's license at an DMV branch or AAA office. The operator must either pass a vision test or present a completed Vision Screening Certificate. If you need to contact your local DMV, check out Caregiverlist’s® Department of Motor Vehicles by State list.