Driving gives a feeling of freedom because you can travel wherever you wish. But, there may come a point when either you or someone close to you must make the decision to put the keys away and find another way to commute.
Talking to an older person about driving can be difficult. It’s often delayed until their driving becomes dangerous, and if delayed too long, it can be a fatal mistake.
I speak from personal experience because I lost my grandmother in a crash. The signs were there before the crash, but we failed to see them as a serious problem and hesitated to ask her to stop driving.
It started with a few scratches here and there on the car, and pulling into the garage a little too far. Perhaps, if we had acted upon those signs we might have had her around longer.
Years later, when another driving situation approached my family, we didn’t hesitate to take action. My father began to show signs of having trouble driving, due to early onset dementia, and we took steps to keep him from driving. Older drivers might believe they are driving fine, even when you see dangerous problems. I won’t tell you it was easy to have the conversation. My father was upset with us for a while, but I would do it again to make sure it keeps everyone safe.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2018, 19% of all fatal crashes were caused by drivers 65 years and older. Now this doesn’t mean just because you turn 65 you should have your driver’s license taken from you. Far from it, it just means it’s time to start being aware of any changes. For a start, keep track of eyesight, physical fitness and reflexes.
If you are an older person, try to avoid driving in bad weather, at dusk or at night, where it may be harder to see things, or if bright lights have started to bother your eyes. Other ways to make sure you are being safe is to give yourself more distance between cars and to constantly scan the road ahead. Look for ways you can extend your driving by being aware of any change that could be dangerous on the road and by adjusting those problems as they arise.
For family members with aging relatives, plan ahead so everyone involved knows what needs to be done. Have a discussion with family members about how everyone should respond when the time for the conversation comes.
Be sensitive to ways you can preserve the older driver’s self-respect. Present concerns in nonthreatening terms. Use “I” messages rather than “You” messages. Focus on a plan that maximizes community safety and try to look for ways that the older person can continue to drive, but with new habits.
Don’t wait to take steps that could save lives.
As always, safe travels!
Contact Trooper Gary Cutler, a public information officer for the State Patrol, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-670-7403.