Many of our clients ask us how to determine if their senior loved one is still capable of getting behind the wheel. As you can imagine that is a very difficult question to answer and no two seniors’ situations are the same. Taking away their ability to drive means taking away their independence. Age should never be used as the sole indicator of driving ability. In fact, drivers 65 and older represent a wide range of abilities, and no individual should have his or her driving privileges determined solely on their age. It is not uncommon for some of the skills necessary for safe driving – vision, reflexes, flexibility, and hearing – to begin to deteriorate with age, however, experience behind the wheel generally makes us better drivers and experience is one of the few things that does not deteriorate with age.
If you have decided to speak with your senior loved one about driving safely for as long as possible, you may want to initiate the conversation with these questions:
- Can we work out a plan to get some professionals to help make sure that you can keep driving safely?
- Let’s make sure there are no problems with medication or something physical. A doctor can help. Can we make an appointment with your doctor for a physical that will help correct things that will interfere with driving?
- I’ve noticed you seem more and more tense behind the wheel. What situations really get to you when you’re driving?
- Would you be willing to follow suggestions from professionals that will help you stay independent?
Turn to Professionals for Assessing Senior Citizen Driving
Resources for driving assessment have been designed by professionals. Some are available on online. One offered by AAA lets your aging parent get an initial assessment of the complex visual skills necessary for safe driving. This is much more than a simple eye test, though regular eye exams are essential. It will test the color separations, ability to recognize objects in motion, distance and peripheral vision.
Schedule an appointment with his/her Physician. Stress the fact that you want to make sure they can continue driving safely for as long as possible. A doctor can evaluate whether medications are interfering with alertness or response times and need to be adjusted. A doctor can check for other medical conditions that could alter a person’s motor functions and driving ability.
If needed, a doctor can refer a Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (DRS). A Driving Rehabilitation Specialist can make a more in-depth analysis of your loved one’s driving ability. A DRS will begin a driving assessment with a test behind the wheel. Based on the results, the DRS could make many suggestions that will improve their driving safety.
For instance, he could recommend some limitations on driving, such as not driving at night, or on highways. A DRS can help to plan driving routes, for instance, ones that do not involve left turns (among the highest percentage of accidents in elder drivers). He can also refer to a specialized driver rehabilitation class that will design specific alternate techniques for your dad to use to improve his driving function and safety.
Your local DMV