At some point in our lives, we all have to quit driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of accidents and fatalities starts going up after age 70. This is despite safer driving practices. Older drivers use seat belts more often and have lower rates of drunk driving and driving in bad weather compared to younger age groups. How do you know when it’s time to stop driving, and how can you help elderly relatives make the transition to a car-free life?
Why Do Our Driving Skills Get Worse as We Age?
There are 5 core aging-related problems that lead to reduced driving skill:
– Issues with neck stiffness and pain make it harder to look around.
– Leg pain and weakness increase the time it takes to move between the gas pedal and the brake pedal.
– Reduced arm strength makes it more difficult to steer.
– Reaction times slow down with age, and multitasking becomes more difficult.
– Glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts cause vision problems. Nighttime visibility gets worse with age regardless of eye health.
These problems become more common as people get older, but not at the same rate. Each driver has to monitor their driving habits and make the decision themselves when they should quit driving.
Taking Steps to Reduce Driving Problems
These preventative steps can address common problems before they lead to an accident:
– Get your eyesight and hearing checked every year.
– Talk to your doctor about how health issues and medications that can affect your driving.
– Be extra vigilant avoiding distractions and factors that limit driving ability. Don’t eat or use your phone while driving, and make sure you’re well rested before going on a long trip.
– Consider taking a refresher course. This will improve your driving skills and help you identify issues before they turn into problems.
– Get a car that’s easier and safer to drive. Automatic transmissions, adaptive cruise control, backup cameras, and blind spot warning systems simplify driving and help elderly drivers work around issues with strength and flexibility.
Signs that it’s Time to Stop Driving
These are the most common early signs of driving problems:
– Frequent near misses.
– Increased tickets and warnings.
– Trouble with basic driving skills including lane keeping, throttle control, brake control, and turn signal use.
– Getting lost in familiar areas.
If you or a loved one starts having these problems, it may be time to stop driving.
Seeking a Professional Opinion
A doctor can give you general advice, but sometimes it’s better to talk to a specialist. An occupational therapist or a certified driver rehabilitation specialist can evaluate the driver, offering advice for driving aids and giving an official opinion on driving skill. Driving evaluations can cost anywhere between $200-$500, and they usually aren’t covered by insurance. However, if the driver is a veteran, the VA may offer free testing.
Making the Shift to a Car Free Life
Many times, the decision to stop driving is a group effort. The person giving up their license must have a way to get out of the house, and that often requires help from family and friends. 78% of family caregivers provide transportation, making it the single most requested form of assistance.
When breaching the subject with a family member, give specific examples of driving issues. You can start the conversation by mentioning recent driving incidents, health issues, or the driver getting lost. It also helps to ask how an older relative quit driving: sometimes drawing parallels to their own situation makes it easier to see their problems. If the driver is combative, getting a third-party opinion can help defuse the situation. Consider talking it over with them and their doctor or an occupational therapist.
Help find alternatives to driving. Retirees don’t need to drive to work every day so their car usage may be limited to once or twice a week. Often, it’s more affordable to pay for a taxi and public transit services instead of a car payment and insurance. Services like grocery delivery have the added benefit of simplifying tasks that can be difficult for people with mobility problems.
When Accidents Happen, We Can Help
No one likes getting in an accident, but Merton Auto Body can make it easier to get back on the road. We’ve built a reputation for top quality collision repair by serving the Lake Country community for over 70 years.
We’re the first choice for many major insurance companies thanks to our reputation for quality work and our auto body estimation center. That means we’ll get your car back to its original condition quickly, working directly with your insurance to make adjustments. Our shop is between Hwy 164 and Hwy 83, just off Silver Spring Drive. That means we’re close by whether you’re in Pewaukee, Lisbon or North Lake.