08 Feb When Should an Elderly Person Stop Driving?
Talking to an elderly driver about when it may be time give up the keys is a tough conversation to have. The ability to drive represents independence— something most seniors do not want to give up.
ELDERLY DRIVING STATISTICS
According to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5709 people (65 and older) were killed in traffic crashes in 2014. In that same year, 221,000 elderly Americans were injured in motor vehicle traffic accidents. People 65 and older made up 17% of all traffic fatalities and 9% of all people injured in 2014. Among the older population, the fatality rate per 100,000 population in 2014 was highest for the 80-to-84 age group for both males and females.
There is some good news: From 2005 to 2014, the fatality rate per 100,000 (in the elderly population) declined from 17.8% to 12.3%. Furthermore, based on statistics, elderly drivers are still safer drivers than the teenage population—especially young males.
WHEN TO STOP DRIVING
The age a senior should stop driving is different for every person. An 82-year old may have the heart, mind and physical abilities of someone in their 60s. On the other hand, an individual who is in their mid-60s may already show the early stages of dementia or suffer from physical ailments (arthritis, failing eyesight or hearing) which decrease driving ability. Some signs that it may be time for an elderly person to stop driving include:
– Memory loss (having difficulty remembering how to go to usual places or return home).
– Age-related macular degeneration— which blurs or blocks the central field of vision.
– Running through stop signs.
– Finding dents or scrapes on the car.
– Scraping the car when pulling into the garage.
– Difficulty judging depth perception to make safe turns into traffic
– Unable to look over the shoulder to check the blind spot when changing lanes
– Confusing the gas and brake pedals
HOW TO HELP
– Start a conversation with your parent and ask them if they have noticed any changes in their own driving ability—then gently discuss your concerns with them. Do not be accusatory.
– Suggest alternative transportation options such as arranging rides to appointments and shopping.
– Go to an appointment with your parent to his/her primary care physician (and ophthalmologist) to discuss your specific concerns. The American Medical Association gives physicians plenty of guidelines on assessing driving fitness in the elderly including: medical conditions, review of medications and to discuss patient’s and family member’s concerns.
– Make an appointment with the DMV. Senior drivers will be asked to take a driving test if they have net met vision requirements or they have been referred to the DMV Driver Safety office by a physician, law enforcement officer, relative or friend.
– Consider moving your parent to an assisted living facility which provides transportation to shopping, doctor appointments and social outings.