Do you remember when you first got your license to drive? It probably gave you an exhilarating sense of independence and freedom. That’s one reason that giving up a driver’s license as we age is so hard.
Being an older driver alone is not a reason to lose a driver’s license. Typically, there are red flags such as increased accidents or fender benders, scratches or dings on a car, or a parent who gets lost while driving home.
Some health conditions like arthritis, cardiovascular disease, dementia, glaucoma and macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke — can compromise an older driver’s abilities.
But how do you know if your loved one is at risk?
Although traffic accidents among older drivers have declined in general since the mid 1990’s, fatal crash rates per miles traveled do tend to increase considerably after age 70 and reach their peak among older drivers 85 and up, according to Insurance Institute of Highway Safety data. In other words, while drivers ages 35 to 59 are involved in more accidents, they drive more than an older driver, who have more fatal accidents per mile driven.
So how does someone start a conversation with an older driver about potential safety concerns? According to the AARP, those who are concerned should sit as a passenger in their loved one’s car, to gauge reaction time and general cognition about directions and the rules of the road. If the drive feels unsafe, talk to the person’s primary care doctor about the concerns.
Children can point their adult parents to a self-assessment by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You can access that assessment here.
The AARP also offers low cost online safety classes for older drivers, which are linked here.
If an older adult does need to give up driving, a caregiver may be a valuable option. Caregivers are screened and background checked, including their driving records, to make sure they meet our insurance standards. Typically the client is only charged the federal reimbursement rate for mileage.
Caregivers can drive clients in their own cars, or they can drive the client’s car so long as the maintenance is up to date, it’s safety features are intact and the client maintains the proper automobile insurance.
If an older adult is unsafe at driving and is not compliant, don’t just ignore the situation. Some families end up selling the car rather than leaving it in the driveway as an accessible temptation for someone with impaired judgement.
If you have questions about whether your loved one should be driving, give us a call. We’re happy to provide a free, professional care manager consultation and help you through the options.