It's never easy to see loved ones get older, especially when simple tasks start to become difficult. Unfortunately, some of our senior loved ones will get to a place where they are no longer driving safely.
It’s doubtful they will recognize this themselves. The burden to revoke driving privileges usually falls on loved ones to make sure they don’t continue to drive when it’s no longer safe. But how do you know when they should no longer be driving?
Let’s discuss some common warning signs and tips on how to approach the subject.
After Severe Physical or Cognitive Changes
If your loved one starts having severe physical or cognitive health changes it could affect their driving. Any vision or hearing problems can make it challenging to see, hear, and react to the traffic around them. They may not see a pedestrian crossing the street or hear an emergency vehicle approaching. Any loss of physical strength can also affect their driving as well. Switching between the break and gas pedals requires some strength as would turning the steering wheel.
Cognitive changes are dangerous to driving. Trouble concentrating, focusing, or remembering things could increase the likelihood of an accident. They may struggle to focus on the road or forget simple driving rules like yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.
After Changes in Driving Habits
An increase of minor dents and damage to their vehicle could be a sign that their driving skills are deteriorating. Check for damage to their mailbox, garage door, or anything else that could be easy to hit if someone is not careful. These minor dings may seem like nothing, but if this behavior is not typical, it could indicate that their driving skills are not what they used to be.
Make sure to listen. Sometimes they will mention driving has become more stressful. Take into consideration what they are saying. Their complaints could reveal the areas where they struggle. Frequently getting lost in familiar areas and forgetting where things are located are good indicators. Avoiding a drive when it rains or refraining from driving at night is another sign. The next time you are in a car with them, pay closer attention to their overall driving skills and see if they are showing signs of confusion or anger when driving.
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After Changes in Driving Habits
It’s never an ideal situation to have a conversation with your loved one about driving safety, but it’s very important. Not only will it help keep your loved one safe, but also other drivers and pedestrians. Here are a few tips that will make the conversation a little easier.
Don't be Confrontational
A hostile, or confrontational approach isn't going to make this situation any better. Try to be as supportive as possible and show them you are considering their side.
Accidents or incidents that have happened are good examples of specifics that should be discussed. Talk about how it made you feel to know your loved one was in danger at that time.
Try Not to Blame Them
Instead of mentioning their attitude or carelessness, talk specifically about their capabilities -- or lack thereof. A good example is suggesting how devastated you would be if something were to happen to them.
Maybe you just witnessed your loved one do something that makes you upset. Wait to discuss it until you've calmed down. Try to remain calm even if they are getting upset. If both of you are having an emotional reaction, the conversation won't work.
It might add more stress if you just say "you can't drive." Instead, do some of the heavy lifting for them and research options. Are there buses they can take? Are family members available to give them a ride when they need it? Present these options when you talk.
It’s never an ideal situation to have the conversation with your loved one about their driving safety, but it’s very important. Not only will it help keep your loved one safe, but also other drivers and pedestrians.
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