While there is no magic age where elderly drivers become unsafe, on average after age 75 crash involvement increases. This is often due to medications and health conditions that can negatively affect elderly drivers. These drivers may not notice these changes in their driving ability or they may be unwilling to admit them.
Noticing a decline in a loved one’s driving abilities puts family members in a difficult position. They may not know how to assess a loved one’s driving ability and might be unsure of what they can even do about it. Because many view driving as a form of independence, speaking with a loved one about their poor driving will usually result in an adverse reaction.
Despite the difficulty of this situation, it is important to talk with your loved one if they answer yes to any of the following questions:
- Does he or she get lost on familiar routes?
- Have you noticed new dents, scratches, or other damage to his or her vehicle?
- Has he or she been warned by a police officer, about poor driving performance, or received a ticket for a driving violation?
- Has he or she experienced a near miss or crash recently?
- Has his or her doctor advised him or her to limit or stop driving due to a health reason?
- Is he or she overwhelmed by signs, signals, road markings, and everything else he or she needs to focus on when driving?
- Does he or she take any medication that might affect his or her capacity to drive safely?
- Does he or she stop inappropriately and/or drive too slowly, preventing the safe flow of traffic?
- Does he or she suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, glaucoma, cataracts, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, or other illnesses that may affect his or her driving skills?
If they answered yes to any of the questions it is important to have an understanding and non-confrontational conversation with your loved one about their driving. Fortunately, this does not necessarily mean that they will never be able to drive again. You can encourage them to enroll in an elderly driver safety class or get a hearing and vision evaluation. Also, by adjusting driving habits, older drivers may be able to continue to drive. For example, by only driving during the day and in good weather while avoiding the expressway and high traffic areas can increase the safety of an elderly driver.