Senior safety behind the wheel
With more cars on the road than ever before, driving has become increasingly difficult. For some seniors, hanging up the keys just might be the best way to stay safe on the roads today.
But how do you know when the time is right to stop driving? How do you delicately approach loved ones about giving up their keys? These are rarely easy topics of discussion, and many seniors and families wrestle with these decisions every day.
There are some obvious warning signs that you, or your loved one, may no longer be able to drive safely, including:
- frequent “close calls”
- increased traffic tickets
- dents and scratches on the vehicle
- repeatedly getting lost
It’s also important to monitor other factors like decreased vision and hearing, slowed reaction time, and physical impairments such as joint stiffness that affect the ability to steer, brake, or check blind spots.
For family of seniors
If you recognize these signs in loved ones, having the conversation about your concerns can be challenging, especially if your loved ones are reluctant to change.
To lessen the tension, be compassionate and understanding of their feelings—driving may feel like their last piece of independence. Consider bolstering your case by gathering the support of friends and family or trusted professionals, such as your loved one’s doctor. Be sure to also provide specific reasons for your concerns.
Finally, to ease the transition, help facilitate other means of transportation for your loved ones. If they enjoy playing cards with friends on Tuesday night or attending church services on Sunday morning, arrange a ride for them or research alternatives such as senior shuttles, public transportation options, and carpooling services. Make sure your loved ones know they can maintain the same lifestyle despite not having direct access to a vehicle.
If you’ve noticed that driving in general has become more difficult, consider the benefits of giving up driving. Relying on other modes of transportation is often cheaper, environmentally friendly, and more relaxing.
Aside from relying on friends and family for occasional transportation, alternatives include public transportation, senior shuttles, and carpooling services.
However, if you wish to keep driving, consider the following tips to keep you safe:
- Get annual vision and hearing checks.
- Take senior driving courses and seminars (ex: AARP’s Driver Safety Program).
- Visit an occupational therapist who can recommend helpful devices for your vehicle.
- Invest in a vehicle that best suits your needs.
- Have emergency supplies in the vehicle at all times.
- Map out directions, and avoid heavy traffic areas and driving in inclement weather.
- Use defensive driving techniques.
- Avoid distractions such as GPS devices, music players, cell phones, etc.
Friends and relatives may also want to talk to you about your driving. You may not like what they have to say, but remain open to their opinions and consider their motives—they simply care about your safety and well-being.
Whatever your decision, be sure to make your safety and the safety of others your first priority.
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