A lot of disputes about seniors and safe driving-some advocate for stopping to drive at a certain age, some say they shouldn’t. Do you love to drive? I do. I loooove to drive. The beauty of an engine obeying you is already something but the best is the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want, instantly, if you wish to.
I fear the day I’ll have to give it up. Even it is pretty far, I know the day will come eventually.
So far, I only needed to talk to my father-in-law and show him how it would be better for him and everyone else if he’d give up driving at his 88th. It was far more difficult than I thought it would be. He told me he got his license when he was 18, has been driving his whole life, and now we want him to just simply give up???? He happens to be an experienced, good driver and presents no risk either for himself, nor for others.
A Little History of What an Experienced, Good Driver Could Still Do
First, he managed to set on fire his car while cleaning its engine from grease with some gasoline, at age of 74.
After deciding at 76 not to send our car by train, as agreed, but driving it himself for 800km(500 miles), 320(200) of which through narrow roads cut into the sides of high mountains, with a canyon from his left and a stone from his right, after a literally sleepless night, due to the excitement. He crashed the car in the afternoon, as he fell asleep and hit the stone. He was a bit bruised, but basically OK. Lucky we were he did not hit the canyon on the other side beneath…
In a couple of years, at 81, while parking the car in front of a friend’s house, he drove it into a ditch, so a towing service was needed.
A few years later, one of our friends saw him driving through the red light in the evening, at 85, which he claimed couldn’t be truth. Luckily again, the junction was empty.
Finally, he did not see his grandson’s bicycle when parking into his garage, so he kind of ran over it, at 88.
Only a couple of days later, while driving the car out of the garage, he misjudged the distance left to the gate and hit it. Or couldn’t step on the brake in time. We were not sure, neither was he. But, we were sure he should consider giving up driving. He wasn’t.
What About You and Your Parents
You might not have that with your parents’ driving yet, but you might as well prepare. If not anything like these, but other signs you may notice, or even look for, could be a sure signal “the conversation” is due.
Some elderly drivers might even feel relieved when they are asked to stop driving, as a matter of fact. My friend’s Mom did not want for a couple of years to burden anyone with driving her to places, so did not tell she’d rather give back her license. She later admitted she felt pretty uncomfortable, even insecure behind the wheel, often driving overly slow, just to make sure she does not cause any accident.
Another friend’s Dad hesitated a day or two when asked, but when his grandson offered to drive him whenever he wants or needs in exchange for having his car the rest of the time, he happily agreed. He just asked to keep his license. It was more important to him than the driving itself.
If You Are That Aging Driving Person
You might want to go ahead and pay attention to your driving-observe yourself. If you recognize that your driving ability is changing, it’s time to adjust your driving, i.e. when and where you drive.
You might want to avoid fast-moving traffic, such as rush hours on the road, and perhaps highways and freeways altogether. Limiting your driving to daylight and good weather only, avoiding driving in dark, in rain or snow. Driving on wet or icy roads isn’t easy at any age, let alone at older age, when physical or cognitive impairments are more likely to be present.
How Will You Know It Is Time to Reconsider Your Driving Habits?
-have even the slightest difficulties steering the wheel
-can’t exactly turn back to see when reversing the car
-try to park and hit the kerb, more than once, as you could not press the brake in time
-have a few new scrapes on your car and are not quite sure how you got them
-do not change lanes as confidentially as you used to, driving long sections with the signal on, before you do it
-or failing to signal before you attempt to change the lane, more than once or twice
-unconsciously drifting into other lanes
-are signaling left when you turn right and vice versa
-constantly keep your foot on the brake
-often pressing on the brake and accelerator pedals simultaneously while driving
-feel uncomfortable driving to an unfamiliar place
-you need to think twice how to get to a previously familiar place
-you need more time to process an information and make a decision in a situation
-your reaction time seems to be longer,
-are confused at turns and exits
-find exhausting to drive at night or twilight, even for shorter distances
How Can You Still Drive Safely Even in Your Older Years?
-take care of your overall health, as this will ensure you can move better and can perform your driving tasks more effectively-do not neglect your regular eye checks, as a decline in your eyesight can lead to, at least, not seeing the signs and traffic light from a proper distance
-the same goes to hearing hecks, as impairment can cause you not hear warning sounds, those of an ambulance, for instant or of another driver trying to warn you being too close, for example, by honking
-check if driving is not recommended with any of your medication and drive only if there are none
-take an assessment occasionally, when you feel you are not the best yourself in reflexes, as this ability often makes the difference between causing a traffic problem and avoiding it. A specialist can assess your abilities and give you advice how to make your driving safe again, for you and others
-find and attend a senior driver improvement course
What Are the Legal Rules?
There are, of course, conditions which can have an impact on someone’s ability to drive. In UK, it is your legal obligation to inform CVLA about those, as a matter of fact, at any age (subject to fine, if you don’t). There is no age restriction for driving.
Gov.uk lists a few of the conditions that might affect your ability to drive:
-diabetes or taking insulin
-heart conditions (including atrial fibrillation and pacemakers)
You can find a complete list here
In USA, rules differ from state to state. In some, physicians are legally obliged to report impaired drivers.
It’s Not Only About You Being Fit to Drive
Your car also needs some attention to be in its best when you sit into it and hit the road.
You can ask your service station to perform regular checks, or you can do it yourself to some extension, but make sure:
-your tires are not worn out
-the brakes work properly
-lights and indicators are working and they are actually clean
-oil and coolant levels are at least in the middle between minimum and maximum
-the washers are filled up with suitable liquid and your wipers are clean and working
-your mirrors, both the side ones and the central one are not incorrectly positioned
-all windows, and particularly the windscreen are clean
-the belts are working fine and you actually fasten them before you start off
-there are no heavy loads or stuff in your cabin unsecured that might hit you in case you need to suddenly brake
Is There an Average Age Recommended to Stop Driving?
As age related conditions may, but do not have to affect driving, this is different for each person. It is impossible and would be unfair to draw the time line up after which a person becomes unsafe to drive and should give up driving, solely based on age.
Furthermore, people who has been driving for 50, or even 60-70 years rarely see the risks as high as we might and can’t always agree with their children who want to take away the keys from them, for good.
How to Convince Elderly Parents to Turn in the Keys, Then?
Therefore, when you, as their children, become concerned about their safety while driving, remember you are not only asking them to give up driving, but with it also the freedom and independence to get around whenever they want or need. Yet another part of their own life they are about to lose control over.
They will either have to get used to a public transport (if there is any in their area) which is not everywhere exactly elderly-friendly, or they will have to rely on you, your willingness and your free time to drive them around. And that’s not something parents are happy to do-become an extra burden on their children.
Do try to understand that it is not a simple decision for most of elderly drivers.
Before you start the conversation about it, you’ll need first to expel from your voice any trace of anger which their actions might have caused. Do not ever try to deal with the issue immediately after you learned about the latest “unfortunate event”. Wait until you both can calmly talk about your concerns and they can really feel you are approaching the issue because you are concerned, not because you are fed up.
Do Not Be Exclusive
Show respect for their knowledge and experience in driving, but in the same time, present your concerns about their own and safety of others. Express your understanding of loss of independence connected to it and how difficult it must be for them to even think of the possibility.
Do not accept: “I’m a good driver” as an answer. Be gentle, but let them know this issue needs to be addressed in a very near future. Ensure them you are not necessarily determined to take away the keys, but, rather, if possible, make their driving more secure. Suggest a visit to the doctor about any health issues.
Talk about a possible assessment, where a specialist can help improve their skills and about a senior driving improvement course. Get them agree for one, on their convenience, but in the near future. Perhaps it really isn’t the time yet for a complete give up, but if it is, it will give you the necessary support and grounds to present a firm front on handing over the keys.
Do not forget, they will still have to get around somehow, so be sure to research possibilities (public transport, private transport services, community senior help, neighbors, you and other family members…) and present these to your loved one, soon no-driver to be. It will wipe out the possible despair about the future inability to go to different places, keep up their social life, visit friends, movies, theaters, church…
It will still be a tough pill to swallow. But how you approach and handle this transition can make a huge difference whether your loved one will be deeply unhappy handing over keys or will have a further feeling of independence and see it as a new chapter in their life, yet to be explored.
Now, that we went through most important aspects of senior driving, I hope you, whether you are the senior driver or the child, do understand reasons and possibilities.
If you have any experience in the topic, I’d appreciate you letting us know in the comments. It can help someone, as well.
And, as always, feel free to reach out should you have questions and I’ll be happy to answer them to the best of my knowledge.
Drive safe, however old or young you might be!
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