4 Ways to Evaluate Your Elderly Loved One Behind the Wheel

Your mother forgets to use her car’s turn signals. Your father drove through another stop sign. Are they showing warning signs of risky driving? If so, how can you know if and when it is time to take away your elder loved one’s car keys?

Most older adults can drive safely well into later life, and statistically, they are some of the safest drivers on the road, yet when does diminishing eyesight, reflexes or memory affect being safe behind the wheel? Countries vary on driver’s license restrictions and road testing for those above age 65, so families and caregivers are encouraged to monitor their elder’s safe driving abilities.

Road safety experts advise periodically evaluating older drivers the following four ways:

  1. Medical conditions. Vision problems or inability to respond quickly to road conditions can stem from underlying health conditions such as arthritis, night blindness or neurological disease.
  2. Medications. Many prescriptions warn of side effects that impair drivers. Elders taking multiple medications are more prone to mental fogginess while driving.
  3. Driving skills and reaction times. Does the senior weave between lanes or drive too slowly? Is there confusion between the gas and brake pedals? What about failing to use the vehicle’s mirrors?
  4. Traffic violations/accidents. The elderly who accumulate two or more traffic tickets or warnings or cause two or more collisions within a two-year period may be showing signs of hampered driving.

Keep in mind that giving up the car keys does not equate to an isolating lack of independence. A support network of family, friends and your Right at Home elder care provider can provide transportation to medical appointments, church and social activities, and for errands and shopping. Deciding to forego driving is a lifestyle adjustment for elders, but certainly not the end of the road in enjoying the freedom of an out-and-about, active life.

What tips can you suggest for talking to a senior loved one about taking away the car keys?