Tip of the Week: Advice for families coping with an older driver's changing abilities
As we age, and watch our loved ones grow older, it's important to think about - and plan for - a time when we may no longer be able to drive.
As we age, and watch our loved ones grow older, it's important to think about - and plan for - a time when we may no longer be able to drive. But how do we decide when it's time to transition from driver to passenger? The experts at AARP Driver Safety and The Hartford offer some advice.
First, help older drivers stay safe behind the wheel for as long as possible. Adult children can help aging parents regularly maintain their vehicles. And if it's time for a new car, adult children can help identify choices with new technologies that can enhance safe driving, like reverse monitoring systems. Older drivers can brush up on their driving skills with AARP Driver Safety's course, which is specifically designed to help people 50 and older refresh their driving skills.
Second, family members should observe an older loved one's driving by taking a ride as passenger and keeping an eye out for warning signs. It's important to look for changes in driving abilities. These signs include:
- Frequent "close calls" or near-crashes.
- Unexplained dents or scrapes on vehicles, fences, mailboxes, garage doors, etc.
- Getting lost, even in familiar locations.
- Difficulty seeing or following traffic signals, road signs and pavement markings.
- Slower responses to unexpected situations, trouble moving the driving foot from the gas to the brake, and confusing the two pedals.
- Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections or on highway entrance and exit ramps.
- Experiencing road rage or inspiring it in other drivers.
- Easily becoming distracted while driving.
- Difficulty turning around to check the rear view while backing up or changing lanes.
- Receiving multiple tickets or warnings from law enforcement officers.
Third, if you notice a pattern of warning signs and an increase in frequency, then it's time to initiate a conversation. "It's important that the right person initiate the conversation," says Jodi Olshevski, a gerontologist and assistant vice president at The Hartford. "Research indicates that 50 percent of married drivers prefer to hear about driving concerns from their spouses first, then doctors and finally adult children. Whoever initiates the conversation should have a strong rapport with the older driver. "
Avoid bringing up the topic of driving during family gatherings. Instead, look for a quiet, private time when all parties involved will have privacy and minimal distractions.