How to Tell if it is Time for a Senior to Hang Up the Keys
Older drivers behind the wheel often fall victim to stereotypes. People frequently have the mistaken belief that senior citizens are responsible for many of the accidents that occur on our nation’s roads. The truth is older drivers cause less harm to others than teen drivers do.
The caveat is that when older adults do have an accident they are more likely to cause serious or fatal injury to themselves than to others. In 2009, nearly 4,000 older drivers died in car accidents.
How do you know when it is time to convince your senior loved one to hang up the keys?
One thing we know can’t be the deciding factor is age. But it is often the only criteria adult children feel they have to use. A healthy 80 year old driver may be far safer behind the wheel of a car than a 65 year old with multiple health conditions.
There are inevitable physical changes that often make driving more difficult as we grow older. From slower diminished reflexes to a slower reaction time, older driver research shows that fatal accidents increase at age 75 with the most significant change appearing at age 80.
If you are worried about the senior driver you love and their safety behind the wheel, these tips might help you take an objective look at their skills.
3 Tips for Assessing a Senior Driver’s Safety
- Condition of their Car: For many older drivers, their car will tell the story of how well they are managing. Is their vehicle full of dents and bangs? Are side mirrors roughed up or broken? Do you see scrapes and scratches on the side panels of the car? These can be signs an older driver is hitting things. Unfortunately, they may not even be aware they are doing so.
- Be the Passenger: Adult children often assume the role of driver when they are out and about with an aging parent. Allowing them to be the driver on a few outings, however, is a great way to assess their skills. It may help you get a true picture of how they react to a variety of road conditions and driving stressors. Try to make one trip during rush hour and one at dusk or after dark. How do they handle themselves? Are they anxious? Overly confident? Do they seem to have any physical shortcomings such as a lack of flexibility that impair their ability to monitor the road around them? Are they going too fast or too slow for road conditions and traffic? All of these factors need to be considered.
- Driving Safety Evaluation: Another good way to objectively evaluate an older driver’s safety is with an online driver safety evaluation. AAA hosts this free, 30-minute interactive test on their site. It assesses senior drivers’ abilities in eight important areas ranging from mobility to visual information processing.
We hope this information will help you objectively evaluate how safe the senior you love is behind the wheel of their car!