Is the Senior Driver in Your Family Safe Behind the Wheel?

December 3, 2018

Concerned about senior driver safety? This information will help you objectively assess their skills.

The topic of driving safety can be a contentious one between seniors and those who love them. For many, driving represents independence. Knowing you can hop in your car and head out to appointments and errands allows most of us to feel empowered and in control of our lives.

Unfortunately, aging brings undeniable physical changes, some of which can make driving more difficult. In honor of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, here are some tips that adult children should know about safety and senior drivers.

Assessing an Older Driver Skills

Adult children sometimes use age as the only factor in determining if a parent is safe behind the wheel. There is evidence to show that age does play a role in driving safety. Senior driver research confirms that fatal accidents begin to rise around the age of 75 and spike significantly at the age of 80.

But age shouldn’t be the primary determinant of driving safety. While aging does cause physical changes, not everyone ages the same. An active 80-year-old may be a safer, better driver than a 60-year-old who lives with a serious health condition.

A few, more objective ways to evaluate an older loved one’s fitness for driving include:

  1. Condition of the vehicle: An older driver’s car can tell a story. Is your senior loved one’s car in good physical shape? Do you see scrapes on the side mirrors and side panels or dents in the fenders? A close inspection of the vehicle can help you spot potential concerns.

Sometimes a senior driver might have a problem with depth perception and not realize it. They may be bumping in to things because they don’t realize how close they are.

  1. Conduct a ride along: Adult children and younger family members often act as a senior’s driver when they head out together. This might keep them from realizing how much the older adult’s driving skills have deteriorated.

Try to discreetly arrange a ride along to see how well the senior performs behind the wheel of their car. It will help to do this during busy traffic times, at dusk, or after dark. Consider the following questions as you observe your loved one’s driving skills.

Is the senior too confident or overly anxious while driving? Are they adhering to the rules of the road? Is looking behind them or over their shoulder difficult or even painful? Are they keeping up with traffic or going too fast or too slow? Each of these factors can impact their safety on the road.

  1. Safe driver evaluation: You can also take advantage of more formal senior-driver safety evaluations. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has a free self-rating tool titled Drivers 65 Plus. This brochure includes 15 questions designed to assess an older adult’s driving skills. If you prefer an in-person approach, a professional driving specialist might be the answer. You can search the American Occupational Therapy Association’s driving specialist database to find a professional near you.

A final suggestion is to make sure your senior loved one has an annual eye exam. Vision loss is more common as we age and can have a significant impact on older driver safety.

Transportation Services at Legacy Senior Living

If your senior loved one decides it is time to hang up the car keys, exploring transportation options together should be a priority. At Legacy Senior Living communities, transportation is one of our most popular services.

Whether it is transportation for a group outing or for a physician appointment, we make it easy for residents to stay connected. Call the Legacy community nearest you to learn more!