How Old is Too Old to drive?
Yes, I know that nothing is more touchy than discussing age and age related topics. Particularly when it’s time to suggest that maybe a loved one shouldn’t be driving because they are too old. Now, there’s no doubt that this topic is going to set me up for the inevitable, “You can pry my keys from my cold dead fingers” type comment, but this is a very serious subject that you may one day have with your parents or grandparents. The reason?
Elderly drivers now account for nearly 20 percent of all motorists, according to the Government Accountability Office. And that number isn’t shrinking in the coming years, because those who make up the first wave of the huge baby-boom generation turned 65 this year.
According to a recent survey from The Hartford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, almost 1-in-10 adults are now worried about an older family member’s driving.
There’s little argument that driving for the elderly is the last bastion of their autonomy, so suggesting that it might be time to give up their keys won’t be easy without a fight. You are in luck though, as the American Association of Retired Persons has produced an online course, titled “We Need to Talk.” It helps family members understand the emotional connection to driving and gives suggestions on how to talk about when it might be time to hang up the keys.
20 things to look for:
• Decrease in confidence while driving
• Difficulty turning to see when backing up
• Easily distracted while driving
• Other drivers often honk horns
• Hitting curbs
• Scrapes or dents on the car, mailbox or garage
• Increased agitation or irritation when driving
• Failure to notice traffic signs or important activity on the side of the road
• Trouble navigating turns
• Driving at inappropriate speeds
• Uses a “copilot”
• Bad judgment making left turns
• Delayed response to unexpected situations
• Moving into wrong lane or difficulty maintaining lane position
• Confusion at exits
• Ticketed moving violations or warnings
• Getting lost in familiar places
• Car accident
• Failure to stop at stop sign or red light
• Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason
If mom or dad is still resistant to giving up the keys, then you will probably have to educate yourself on the guidelines set in place by many states. In fact, many states have medical review boards consisting of health care professionals who advise on licensing standards, and in individual cases, where a person’s ability to drive safely is in doubt. They will take into consideration any history of crashes or violations, reports by physicians, police, and others — state licensing agencies may require renewal applicants to undergo physical or mental examinations.
There is no doubt that this type evaluation is embarrassing for everyone who has to go through it, however you must remember that, one day, you too will probably be at the end of this line.
It goes without saying that determining the age that you or a loved one should hang up their keys not only varies on a case by case basis, but also will prove to be more heart-wrenching than you may think.
If you’ve recently had to suggest that your parents or grandparents consider their driving status can you offer any advice for the rest of us? I’d love to hear it.