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How To Know When To Stop Driving Alone

Traffic on roadHow To Know When To Stop Driving Alone

Driving is a common stressor for many families. As we age, our motor skills, eyesight, memory, and even ability to navigate the roads, changes. These changes often progress slowly, which can make it difficult for family members and friends to determine at what point their loved one’s driving has become a safety risk.

By being aware of these four core warning signs, you will be able to recognize when your parent or friend’s driving is starting to become hazardous.

Signs to look for when it’s time to stop driving alone:

Here are some of the main warning signs that indicate when it’s time for a senior to stop driving:

1. Getting lost

Has your loved one ever forgotten where they were, arrived late to an appointment, or called you because they were lost? Do they frequently forget where they are when they are with you? If your aging parent or friend is beginning to forget directions, especially in familiar locations, then it’s probably time for them to stop driving alone. 

2. Vision changes

Does your loved one have trouble properly gauging depth perception when walking and driving? Has their vision changed recently? As we age, our ability to respond quickly to stimuli decreases. But, to be a safe driver, one must be able to judge gaps in traffic at intersections and highway ramps – let alone clearly see signs, road lines, blind spots and traffic lights.

3. Reduced motor abilities

Does your aging parent or friend have a stiff neck or back? Are their ankles and feet agile and strong enough to quickly change between the gas and brake pedal? Do they sometimes forget which pedal is which, or how to use their car’s navigational signals? If they are having difficulty turning to check their blind spots and rear view mirror, or if they experience stiffness and are slow to react, then they may be safer in the passenger seat.

4. Dangerous driving

If your loved one has recently received traffic tickets or warnings from the police, it could be a sign that they are no longer safe on the road alone. Check their car for dents or scrapes. Look around the driveway to see if there are dents in the garage door, scuffs on the curbs, or dents in fences and mailboxes.

One of the best ways to understand your loved one’s driving is to ask them to drive you somewhere. Pick a place that is nearby and not in a high-traffic area. If they are driving too fast, skipping stop signs, not signalling properly, getting angry, responding slowly to changes in traffic, or forgetting where they are; then it’s time to talk to them about different transportation options. Getting them the help they need will keep them healthy and safe, and it will protect others around them.

What to do when it’s time to have “the driving talk” with your loved one:

Many seniors are resistant to losing their ability to drive. They fear that their independence is being taken away, and that they will not be able to take care of themselves. In many cases, seniors think that their driving is perfectly safe. If it’s time to explain to your loved one that they need to rethink their transportation methods, it’s important to emphasize how much you care about them. You’re making this decision because you want them to be safe – not because you want to restrict their freedom.

Next, begin to explain the benefits of not driving. For example, they no longer have to worry about vehicle maintenance, getting gas, the risk of somebody else hitting their vehicle, or risking getting lost. Many cities offer reliable transportation services specifically for seniors.

It’s important to make sure that mom or dad is being driven by safe, reliable drivers who are familiar working with seniors. Caregivers, who help seniors with shopping, running errands and getting to and from doctor’s visits, are also a great option. They can help your loved one get where they need to go safely, and make sure that they have the support they need – when they need it.

Looking for more information about in-home care?

Feel free to call our senior help line with questions at 434-455-6500 in Lynchburg or 540-776-3622 in Roanoke. We’re here to help!