When is it Time to Take Away the Car Keys?
Driver safety is important. When to take away the car keys is a difficult yet important decisions. It's not to do and should not be made lightly. Most seniors see giving up their cars as the total loss of their independence. Solving this concern will go a long way in aiding them in maintaining driver safety.
The ability to drive helps older adults stay active and independent. However, the risk of being hurt or hurting someone else in an accident increases dramatically as we age. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 500 older adults are injured every day in crashes.
According to the NHTSA here are 20 signs we should watch out for.
Drifting into other lanes.
Making sudden lane changes for no reason.
Ignoring or missing traffic signals or stop signs.
Becoming confused in traffic.
Braking or stopping abruptly without any reason.
Hitting the accelerator suddenly without any cause.
Coasting nearly to a complete stop in the midst of moving traffic.
Presses on the brake and the accelerator at the same time while driving.
Difficulty seeing pedestrians, objects, or even other vehicles.
Getting more and more nervous when driving.
Drives at a significantly slower speed than the posted speed or the general speed of surrounding vehicles.
Backs up after missing an exit or road.
Has difficulty reacting quickly as they process multiple images or sounds.
Has problems with neck flexibility in turning to see traffic on the left or the right.
She gets disoriented or lost easily, even if she is in familiar locations.
Fails to use turn signals or even keeps the signal on without changing lanes.
Has increased near misses on the road.
Has been issued two or more traffic tickets or warnings in the past two years.
There are dents or scrapes present on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, or even on curbs and very little understanding of how they got there.
How do we begin monitoring driving behavior?
Here are some questions you can ask your parent to help determine if they need to stop driving;
Can you read the street signs easily?
Do you have trouble looking over your shoulder?
Do you have difficulty moving your foot from the gas to the brakes?
How well do you see at night?
Are you comfortable with passengers or are they distracting?
Being honest with our loved ones goes a long way when determining if their driver's safety is questionable. Services like Uber and Lyft will allow our loved ones to stay independent. Help them learn how to navigate these apps.
Sometimes, we have to be the “bad guy” and physically take away the car. If our loved one is determined to drive despite our serious concerns it may be necessary. Other options are to get a letter from their doctor stating that driving is no longer safe. You can also contact your local DMV and let them know a driver is unsafe.
My Dad told Mom one day that they were giving her car to my brother-in-law. For a long time, despite Alzheimer's, Mom was still pretty angry over this “injustice”. Because of her Alzheimer's she saw no logical reason she couldn't drive anymore. It's unfortunate that she was unable to enjoy the Karma when we took Dads' car away.
Ensuring driver safety isn't easy. A willingness to do all we can to aid in this transition is important. Having a discussion about their fears, struggles and how to address them might go a long way in getting compliance. Keeping in mind that losing even some independence is difficult is also important.
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