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How Long San You Safely Drive?

Seniors on the Road

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 - 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.

Honest Evaluation

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.

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Matt is the Managing Partner at Leland-West Insurance Brokers, Inc. He started with the firm while still a college student, way back in 1984. According to Matt his only remaining hobby is Motorsport ... because its all he can afford ("will work for tires"). Reach him at matt@lelandwest.com