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How Long San You Safely Drive?
There’s probably no one more determined to hang on to every semblance of independence than someone who feels threatened of losing it. Losing one’s ability to drive is a loss of independence many seniors on the road dread and will fight adamantly to avoid. Independent streaks don’t necessarily make safe drivers, though.
Records published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate 33 million Americans aged 65 or older held active drivers’ licenses in 2009. Of those 33 million senior drivers, an average of 500 of them were injured in auto crashes every single day of the year. Even more heart breaking, 15 older adults every day suffered fatal injuries in those auto accidents.
The conversation - THE conversation - about when it’s time to turn in the keys won’t come as a surprise to older adult drivers. They understand the inevitability even though they dread the eventual reality.
Every family communicates in unique style but it’s usually easiest to engage in serious conversations such as when to stop driving when the conversation is started early and progresses in short, gentle steps as the older driver ages. When the subject is presented as a loving acknowledgement of the passing of time rather than an anger-fueled ultimatum, the message is easier to hear.
Fortunately, there are resources that can help family members introduce the subject in ways that are kind, constructive, and based on fact rather than fear. Some older adults will take comfort in the same resources as their concerned family members do so please consider sharing them with the determined driver in yours.
- Agency Finds Older Drivers More Involved in Fatal Crashes / Loyola University Health System, Loyola University Chicago
- “Dad, Please Let Me Have the Car Keys” / Go 60
- The Impaired Older Driver: When and How Families Should Intervene / University of Nebraska Medical Center Home Instead Center for Successful Aging
- Older Adult Drivers: Get the Facts / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Telling Patients When They’re Unfit to Drive Cuts Crashes (Study) / A Healthy Me
- We Need to Talk . . . Family Conversations with Older Drivers (pdf) / The Hartford
Once the conversation has begun in earnest, honest evaluation can help the family determine the wisdom putting the brakes on the elderly driver or not. When started early, driving tests, doctor’s exams, and a good honest assessment of the elder driver’s skills can become a great tool for determining baseline ability that will help measure changes in the driver’s abilities as age, illness, or injury occur. Yearly assessments will show the progression of any impairments or concerns and perhaps make it easier to accept and understand when it’s best for all to make the change.
- Age & Driving: Safety Tips, Warning Signs, and When to Stop / Help Guide
- Are You a Smart Driver? / AARP
- Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully / National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Driving Tests / California DMV
- Medical Fitness to Drive: Is Your Patient at Risk? / American Medical Association
- Q & A: Older Drivers / Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
- Rehabilitation Driving Program / The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
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