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Safer Driving for Seniors
Driving is a symbol of independence — one we often take for granted. It can sometimes be a challenge for older drivers to maintain their safety and that of others on the road as they age, and that can impact the confidence they have while pursuing their dreams.
Use the information below to guide your discussion about driving safety with the older adults in your life. Proactive conversations about driving, before any issues arise, are a good way to start the conversation and keep it ongoing.
FACTS ABOUT SENIOR DRIVERS
In general, seniors are some of the safest drivers on the road. They’re more diligent about wearing seat belts, observing speed limits and staying sober behind the wheel. They also drive less after dark, avoid bad weather and stay away from busy roads and intersections.
Still, driving can become more difficult if they have declining vision, slower cognitive functioning or side-effects from medication.
LOOK FOR THE SIGNS
If you’re concerned about a senior driver, ask yourself these questions:
- Are they navigating familiar roads safely?
- Is their overall health good?
- Is their vision good enough to read signs and see people easily on the side of the road?
- Do they drive at appropriate speeds and stop at the right places?
- Do they choose to avoid bad weather or other hazardous conditions?
If you notice they have any of the following conditions, it could mean a conversation is in order.
- Frequent forgetfulness, confusion and disorientation
- Trouble walking, swallowing, hearing or following verbal instructions
- Dizziness, tripping and falling
- Shortness of breath and general fatigue
TALKING ABOUT SAFE DRIVING
Don’t forget, driving equals independence for most people. Be respectful when talking to an older friend or family member about it. Keep the conversation neutral and allow them to express their point of view. And remember, unless they have severe dementia or another equally debilitating condition, legally it’s their decision to make.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If it’s time for the seniors in your life to slow down on the driving, there are several ways to help them through the transition:
- Check in often to catch up and stay in touch.
- Offer to take them on outings or to regular appointments.
- Find out if there’s public transportation convenient to any of their routine destinations.
- Ask them if you can help facilitate sharing rides with friends.
- Support any new interests that that don't require much driving such as reading and gardening.
Looking for more pointers? Check out our tips for helping your parents safely manage the road.