Aging Parents: To Drive or Not to Drive–Part 2: Decision-Making Information (updated 3/2013 and 12/2015)

Help Parents Age Well by Driving–or Not? Important Links–read on..

“Perhaps the scariest road hazard is the one they don’t make a sign for.” The large bold type on the back cover of the August  2009 New Yorker caught my eye: The silhouette of a girl, leaning forward, hands on the steering wheel, pony tail flying fills a drawing–a yellow and black, road-hazard-shaped sign, with a smaller sign just below saying TEENS. I save the back cover.

(For those interested: 2013Teens are among the riskiest drivers on the road, crashing four times more often than adult drivers do.  In fact, car crashes are the leading cause of death among people age 16-20, killing more than 5,600 teens each year.

If teenagers are “perhaps the scariest road hazard,” what about older drivers? Although drivers age 55 and older are 25% of the driving population and have only 1% of the accidents, AARP tells us that older drivers usually drive fewer miles each year than younger drivers. Also the number of accidents per mile rises sharply at age 75, which may be why older drivers are often viewed as scary.

Aging parents. Teenagers.  Dangerous driving.  Are we more likely to ground a teenager (whose whole life is ahead) but take away an older person’s keys permanently– thus significantly impacting his/her life?  The consequences of driving infractions are usually far more life-changing for the elderly than for teens. Additionally– should one size fit all older drivers?

Unless there’s a threat to life and limb, it makes sense–when trying to help parents age well–to think: “Make Haste Slowly.”  Having good, objective information before problems arise, provides unemotional data on which to base decisions. Objective data not only helps prevent the sobering, life-changing reality of “taking away the keys” unnecessarily and prematurely, but supplies “ammunition” to legitimize taking dangerous drivers off the road when necessary. 

With information-gathering and possible decision-making in mind, check out the following information: 

Latest update–12/24/15, Nat’l Inst. of Health -NIH SeniorHealth “OLDER DRIVERS:HOW AGING AFFECTS DRIVING” Click: Older Drivers

The Effects of Aging on Driving Skills, is excellent–complete with  a driving assessment that can be helpful in knowing when driving is safe or no longer safe. Click  http://www.usaaedfoundation.org/, then “Health and Safety.”

AARP’s site: http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/driver_safety/ especially “Are You A Smart Driver,” “10 Vision Safety Tips for Older Drivers,” and “Should You Take A Driver Safety Class?”, (added bonus–usually a discount on auto insurance). A friend told his mother that he would take the course with her every year. As long as she passed, she could continue to drive–assuming no accidents. (She stopped driving at 98; they both took the course many times.) Check out other AARP older driver information, including “10 Signs That It’s Time To Limit Or Stop Driving”  http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/info-05-2010/Warning_Signs_Stopping.html,

CarFit, http://www.car-fit.org/, free, sponsored throughout the country. Individual appointments are scheduled for a “quick comprehensive check” examining how well your car fits you (actually how well your parent’s car fits her/him). End result: recommendations for car adjustments and adaptations, and a sheet of resources. I went to our woman’s club one day, found “CarFit” was taking place in the parking lot, asked if there was time for me, and was surprised to find my mirrors weren’t adjusted to give me the best range of vision.

AAA’s “Store” tab, then “Free Products” features The Older and Wiser Driver and Drivers 65 Plus: Test Your Own Performance (a short questionnaire that tests important driving-related skills). Download; or scroll down for the free brochure. Also click the Resources tab. So much excellent information on this site: http://www.aaafoundation.org, 

The preceding can be a “heads up” for identifying unsafe drivers or for keeping capable, older parents driving longer–safer.  When older people can continue to drive safely, they maintain their independence, their way of life. We know that. They feel good, so we feel good as we help parents age well.


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