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When Should Seniors Stop Driving?

As people get older, it’s only natural that they should want to hold onto their independence as long as possible. For many seniors, that means maintaining a driver’s license as long as they can, in order to keep their mobility and freedom. At some point, however, it becomes dangerous for a senior to continue driving. How do you know when it’s reached that point?

First, understand that the ability to drive is not about age. There’s no particular age at which a person becomes incapable of operating a vehicle. Rather, as a senior’s physical and cognitive functions decline, the ability to safely drive a car also diminishes. If you have a question about whether or not someone should be driving, look for warning signs like:

  • A tendency to become distracted while driving or miss traffic signals like stop signs
  • Lack of confidence while driving, or a tendency to weave or straddle lanes
  • Hitting curbs when backing up or turning right
  • Frequent close calls, or scrapes and scratches on the car
  • Delayed responses, or confusion about gas and brake pedals
  • Lack of discretion about appropriate speed

If you have an elderly parent who is showing any of these signs, or who is experiencing a cognitive decline that could lead to disorientation, it’s time to talk about alternatives to driving. While this may be a tough sell, it might be helpful to frame it in such a way that helps your parent realize that driving isn’t really the best part of doing the things he or she is doing- the activities are the best part. Using a cab or senior ride service doesn’t diminish the experience, it just makes it safer and more relaxing for all involved.

If the senior in your life isn’t at the point of needing to stop driving yet, there are some steps to take that can push that time back a little further. While these are great tips for seniors, they’re also good tips for any driver to consider.

  • Exercising your mind and body can keep you in better shape for longer. Your brain and muscles are needed to drive a car, so keeping them in tip-top shape means you’ll be driving safely for longer.
  • It’s important to allow enough space between vehicles. Traffic can be crazy, and we all crowd the driver ahead of us from time to time, but leaving enough space to allow sufficient time to slow down or stop when you need to makes the roads a safer place.
  • Take it easy on the left turns. Did you know that drivers aged 65 and older have a higher rate of crashes involving left turns? It’s better to take a little bit of extra time and make three right turns instead.
  • Stop driving distracted. Using a cell phone, adjusting the radio, and even interacting with other people in the car can steal focus from the road. If something in the car is distracting you, consider removing it from the car.
  • Stick to quieter roads. High-speed driving on congested highways can be stressful. When possible, stay off these busy roads in favor of quieter routes.
  • Double-check your medication. Anyone taking medication should talk to a pharmacist to see if it has a negative impact on the ability to drive. Seniors, in particular, should pay attention, especially because they are often prescribed several medications, to be taken every day.

If you’re helping an elderly parent learn to adapt to new circumstances, there may come a time that you need help. When that time comes, Elder Care Connections has the resources to assist you. We’re a boutique-style agency, committed to helping people find the right care for their loved ones. We pride ourselves on helping you find a caregiver who is not only capable but also compatible with your loved one’s personality. Contact us for an in-home evaluation, or call (914) 368-2075 to learn about all we have to offer.

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