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When Should Your Aging Loved One Stop Driving?

If your aging loved one is getting to the point that they are starting to need assistance in their everyday life, it can create a sense of hardship and stress for everyone.  Specifically, driving a motor vehicle is one of those things that may need to be addressed sooner than later as your aging senior gets to a certain age or a point where there is a medical concern. The decision to address driving as a concern can many times be a heart wrenching one, especially knowing that it may result in taking away their freedom and ability to feel independent.

Although the topic of driving can many times be a tough one for your aging family members, it can create an emotional barrier to overcome as taking the car keys away can be the hardest thing they have to deal with. Although many seniors can drive safely into their late 80’s and even early 90’s, some seniors deal with hearing and vision impairments not to mention a slowed reaction time which can make driving deadly.

A report by AAA found that drivers over the age of 65 are more likely to have an accident with every additional mile they drive. Another study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that drivers 80 years and older have a higher crash death rate than any other age group with the exception of teenagers. That being said, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out that age is not an absolute predicator to bad driving. In fact, older drivers typically cause fewer pedestrian accidents and are more likely to wear their seat belts.

So when is it time to take the keys from your loved one? Here are a few factors to think about before making the crucial decision to take away the driving privilege from a loved one.

  1. Vision and hearing impairments – As we age it is typical that our senses begin to dwindle. As hearing and vision gets worse, so does the effectiveness of safe driving. If you notice your loved ones’ conditions are worsening, it might be time to sit down with them and/or their doctor to see if driving is something that should be off the table not only for their safety but the safety of those around them.
  2. Health Conditions – Not only do our senses become less effective as we age but our health in general may become jeopardized. If you notice your loved ones’ health conditions worsening, or if their doctor has warned that their health conditions could affect their ability to drive based on, for example, medications they are taking, it may be time to sit down and have a chat about their ability to safely drive.
  3. Damage to the car or reluctance to drive at night – These are two signs that are pretty obvious and are cause for concern when allowing an aging senior to drive a motor vehicle. If you notice new dents or nicks in the vehicle or if they refuse to drive at nighttime, these may be cautionary flags that signal they are no longer comfortable behind the wheel.

Remembering that not everyone is okay with giving up their independence and the idea of being less mobile, taking away the car keys can come as a real shock. If your aging loved one is still in good enough shape to drive but you worry about their safety, a GPS medical alert device may be just want they need. This allows them to wear a GPS-enabled medical alert device button that can provide emergency help outside of the home if they ever need it. As with everything, the aging process takes a different toll on each individual so making smart decisions regarding your loved ones’ ability to live independently and safely is a decision that will have to be made together with your family members and doctor to ensure your senior lives a full & happy life as they age.