Is it Time to Hand Over The Car Keys?

Posted on April 20, 2024 by Published by

As a loved one gets older and their driving skills start to decline, it may be to time for them to get out from behind the wheel. It’s often a difficult conversation to have since it’s a loss of the senior’s independence. They may have been driving all their life, it defines them, or they just love cars. At the end of the day, you want what is best for them and that includes keeping them safe.

I recommend starting the conversation early. If you notice any warning signs that a person’s driving abilities are impaired, it’s best to bring them up to avoid a tragic circumstance. Those signs include:

  • Frequent motor vehicle accidents
  • Forgetting how to locate familiar places
  • Failing to observe traffic signs
  • Making slow or poor decisions in traffic
  • Driving at an inappropriate speed
  • Becoming angry or confused while driving
  • Hitting curbs
  • Using poor lane control
  • Making errors at intersections
  • Confusing the brake and gas pedals
  • Returning from a routine drive later than usual
  • Forgetting their destination during the drive

During the discussion, show empathy, provide alternatives and be there for them. Stress on their positives and strengths.

Once they are aware of your concern, they can discuss the signs you noticed with their primary care doctor who can treat any underlying conditions. They may even refer them to an occupational therapist who can perform a driver assessment and provide recommendations.

Some people start by limiting their driving to daytime and limiting their drive to destinations within the area. This may work for some, but this is a sign that further professional evaluation is needed.

Impaired driving isn’t just for seniors

We are made to believe that only seniors lose their driving skills, but aging alone does not put a person at risk for unsafe driving. There are several factors to consider that may affect driving ability including:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Cognition
  • Medical conditions, for example epilepsy or sleep disorders
  • Dexterity, or the ability to move hands and fingers
  • Functional deficits, or the inability to complete daily tasks
  • Certain medications, especially ones that make you drowsy
  • Substance abuse

Holding everyone accountable for their role in recognizing and addressing driving impairment can help keep people safe on the roads.

Article contributed by Dr. Ariba Khan, geriatric medicine physician at Aurora Health Care.

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