Time for Elderly Drivers to Hang Up Their Keys? | Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C.
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Time for Elderly Drivers to Hang Up Their Keys?

Written by Jared Staver

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Jared Staver is a Personal Injury Lawyer based in Chicago, Illinois and has been practicing law for over 20 years.

Jared Staver

CATEGORY: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury

We’re taught to respect our elders, which can make it difficult to tell an elderly loved one not to drive anymore. After all, driving can give senior citizens a sense of independence when they may otherwise feel limited.

However, respecting your elders includes keeping them safe. If an elderly driver shouldn’t be behind the wheel, it’s our responsibility to protect them and others on the road from harm. Every day, more than 500 elderly drivers are injured in an accident.

5 Signs an Elderly Driver Shouldn’t Be On the Road Anymore

There are many factors to consider before you revoke a loved one’s driving privileges. It’s important to consult doctors, driving specialists, and other professionals before you make such an impactful decision.

However, the following are signs that you need to start this conversation:

  1. They take medications that can impair their reflexes or senses. This is especially true if the medication warns against operating heavy machinery or can cause drowsiness.
  2. They have eyesight problems even with glasses. Peripheral vision issues, sensitivity to light, poor night vision, and difficulty reading road signs, even with glasses, make it challenging to drive safely.
  3. They are experiencing memory loss. While we all have occasional memory lapses, consistent difficulty remembering basic things could lead to a dangerous mishap on the road. If a doctor is concerned with your loved one’s memory loss, they should not be driving.
  4. They are losing their range of motion. If seniors have difficulty with their range of motion, they may be unable to do essential tasks on the road, like checking a blind spot. If they confuse the brake and gas pedals, cannot insert the key into the ignition well, or generally seem flustered when starting or operating the car, these are signs that driving may have become too complex.
  5. They seem to have more “close calls,” driving citations, or damage to their vehicle. If you’ve noticed your elderly loved one keeps narrowly avoiding accidents on the road, this can be quite dangerous. Actual citations or warnings from the police should also be a wake-up call. And if there are unexplained scrapes or dents in the car or if the elderly driver has started hitting curbs or crossing lane lines, these are signs of greater difficulty.

Common Conditions That Affect Elderly Drivers

Certain diseases and conditions that commonly affect the elderly can also affect their ability to drive. Those aged 65 and older are more prone to the following:

  • Dementia
  • Arthritis
  • Neck and back pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision loss

These aren’t the only conditions that can impair your driving ability, but they are widespread. For example, someone with poor eyesight might fail to see oncoming traffic, but someone with dementia might have impaired judgment and cognition behind the wheel. Additionally, medications for these conditions can cause drowsiness and other side effects that affect driving.

While not everyone diagnosed with an illness or condition will automatically be a danger on the road, it is essential for older drivers to continuously visit their healthcare provider. A doctor can ensure the elder is safe to drive and can still perform the skills necessary for daily tasks, including operating a motor vehicle.

How to Talk to Your Elderly Loved One About Their Driving

It is never easy to tell someone you care about that they should consider not driving, but it is an important discussion to have.

Here are the most important things you can do to make this process easier:

Plan Ahead

Make sure you prepare for what you are going to say in advance. This will help make the conversation go smoothly and remind you of specific talking points even if emotions are running high.

While it’s important to plan ahead, it’s also important to address the issue as soon as possible so it doesn’t get worse. Even if your elderly loved one’s driving is okay right now, if you know their abilities are declining, you should make them aware of what to expect down the line.

Be Understanding and Supportive

Make sure to convey your concerns without infantilizing your loved one or expressing pity. Listen and be honest. Some seniors might even be relieved to hear they don’t have to drive, whereas others will be upset by the news. Don’t dismiss their feelings or opinions regardless of how they may feel.

Avoid confrontation or demands—the conversation might turn frustrating, but try to stay patient and see things from their perspective. Again, many senior citizens depend on driving for their independence, so this discussion is likely hard for them. Try to make the transition as easy as possible.

Use Specific Examples

An important way to show your respect while still supporting your argument is to talk about specific instances you noticed their driving was dangerous. You can discreetly make a list of concerns to refer to when planning your discussion. Giving examples can help your elderly loved one realize why and how their driving is dangerous.

Suggest Transportation Alternatives

It is much easier to handle a difficulty if you know that there are other options. Tell your elderly loved one about any rideshare programs or public transportation for senior citizens in your city. Also, check to see if ITNAmerica operates near you. It provides volunteer-based transportation for seniors 24/7. If you have a plan to keep their lives intact, they will be much more receptive.

Don’t Do It Alone

Doctors, other family members, and even other caretakers should give their input before you decide a loved one should no longer drive. An elderly person is more likely to listen to you all rather than any one individual. Finally, it shows how much you all support them. Remember the goal is not to gang up on the person, but rather to form a community of support for them in this difficult transition.

Ways Senior Citizens Can Maintain Independence

A car, which is often our first taste of freedom as young adults, can symbolize one of the last remaining freedoms for the elderly. However, there are many alternatives for seniors to maintain their independence without a driver’s license, including:

  • Utilizing transportation services
  • Exercising
  • Practicing hobbies and interests
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Visiting the doctor frequently for health management

Maintaining their health is a priority, as it is largely beneficial to their overall sense of independence. And while independence is important for the elderly, so is companionship. You and other loved ones should continue to nurture your relationship with the elder, especially once they are unable to drive.

Call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. Today

If you are going to broach the subject of driving with a senior citizen, make sure to do it with compassion. Continue to do your research and listen. If you really believe they are endangering themselves or others, you would be remiss not to talk about it. While hanging up your keys may seem like the end of the world, it is much better than a terrible car crash.

If you or an elderly loved one are injured after a car accident, contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today for a free consultation about your case by calling (312) 236-2900.

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(312) 236-2900
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