When Driver Safety Conquers Freedom

Mar 28, 2016

When Driver Safety Conquers Freedom

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Trading Senior Freedom for Driver Safety

Everyone seems to assume that all senior citizens are bad drivers, the truth is driving skills may vary from person to person. Each individual is different, so it makes sense that their driving abilities may decline differently as they age. For senior citizens, driving is their way of living life without relying on someone else, so by generalizing that all senior citizens cannot drive hurts them all. Revoking all senior citizens’ licenses would punish those who can still drive well and do not have problems driving. It would not help to choose a certain age to revoke licenses either since each person ages differently. But something must be done, according to HelpGuide.Org the elderly are more likely to get traffic violations and get involved in accidents than younger drivers. National Institute of Health states that elderly involved in accidents are more likely to be seriously injured or worse due to their more fragile bodies. So, how can we ensure that seniors are driving safely and that everyone is protected on the road?

The best way to prevent the problems would be to focus on those senior citizens that are having driving issues. This can be done by identifying the symptoms of declining driving skills and responding to them.

Signs that Senior Safety May Be at Risk 

Aging affects the human body in many ways that can cause an individual’s driving ability to decline. Some of these include, muscle strength, reflexes, and the senses. As they age, a senior citizen's reaction time slows down and they lack muscle control, which causes them to have problems switching from the accelerator to the brake. Seniors may also be taking medicine which can cause drowsiness, confusion, and other problems that can directly affect their driving.

Aging can also affect their focus, resulting in distractions and perhaps confusion of their surroundings. Some tips to combat this are awareness of their health by getting check-ups and talking with their doctor. Vision and hearing check-ups are also vital to seniors driving safer. Having the right car can also help seniors. Features such as power steering and power braking make it easier for seniors when their strength decreases. Seniors are also encouraged to get regular car checks, keep headlights clean, check windshield wipers, and maybe even take refresher courses in driving.

That Building Came Out Of Nowhere!

Here are a few signs that show when a senior citizen’s driving ability is starting to fail:

  • Driving too fast or too slow
  • Responding slower, having slower reflexes
  • Trouble understanding traffic signs
  • Failing to yield, not noticing pedestrians
  • Being confused, sleepy, angry, or frustrated behind the wheel
  • Changing lanes too quickly or drifting into lanes
  • Trouble judging space between cars
  • Lack of strength to move around, turn head or turning the wheel
  • Had multiple accidents within a short time frame
  • Get lost in familiar areas

This is only a compiled list, there are many more signs to show the decline of driving skills.

Talking to Your Elderly Parents About Driver Safety

There are options that loved ones can take in order to talk with their parent, grandparent, or whoever they need to talk with about no longer driving. We suggest holding an intervention with family members and perhaps the driver’s doctor in order to discuss the topic. Another option would be to contact the local motor vehicles department in order to voice your concerns, which could also make your concerns more legitimized if the department agrees that your loved one should not be driving.

A drastic measure could be taking away their keys and vehicle, either disabling the car or moving it out of their reach can prevent them from trying to drive the car. These options can be very difficult and could get ugly quickly which is why HelpGuide.Org provides some tips on how to handle the talk. HelpGuide.Org believes when discussing the topic, it would be best to remain respectful, understanding, and compassionate towards the loved one. It would be best not to generalize about their driving ability, instead use examples of what they have been experiencing to help them understand the problem. By mentioning how they are not able to hold onto things like they used to, having trouble reading something in front of them or some other examples in order to really show the senior how much they are struggling.

New Freedom

Driving allows people to have their own independent freedom, which can make their life more interesting and enjoyable due to the lack of dependence. But not being able to drive anymore does not mean a senior citizen’s freedom is gone, in fact they are exposed to even more new experiences. No longer having a car means a senior saves money by not paying for car insurance, car bills, gas and other expenses related to cars. Not driving can help an elder’s health by exercising which in turn can boost energy, improve sleep and confidence. Due to the lack of personal transportation, a senior citizen must find other options which can expand their social life. All of these factors can create a better life for non-drivers, a more freeing life since they have one less thing to worry about.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can a senior with Alzheimer's disease still drive safely?

A senior in the early stage of Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related condition does not necessarily need to stop driving. However, drivers with these conditions might not know when they are an unsafe driver. As a senior, you should have a friend or family member that is willing to tell you when your driving becomes unsafe.

It is also important to tell a friend or family member if you become confused while driving. Seniors with moderate to severe dementia should not drive.

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My dad recently had his license revoked by his doctor due to his Alzheimers. But he REFUSES to stop driving. He's very dangerous on the road! How can we get him to stop?

One symptom of Alzheimer's Disease is thinking that others are plotting or scheming against you. He probably feels like you are "out to get him" and are trying to take away his independence. Take the car away, and hide the keys to your vehicles. If your father asks about the car, insist that it is away for repairs. Volunteer to drive your dad where it is he needs to go. It may hurt to tell your dad these tall tales, but it would be even worse if he got on the road and hurt himself or someone else.

I'm sorry you have to be in this situation, but just remember that if there is no car, there is no driving.

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