Are They Too Old to Drive? Here’s When to Consider Taking Away the Keys

For many seniors, the ability to drive is critical to their sense of independence and quality of life. However, statistics clearly indicate that elderly drivers are at greater risk of driving-related accidents and fatalities than younger drivers. Sometimes, it’s difficult for older people to realize or admit they are no longer fit to drive. If this is the case, it’s up to the adult child to protect their aging parent as well as others on the road.

How Aging Affects Driving Ability

According to AAA, seniors live seven to ten years longer than they are able to drive safely. Aging can cause a variety of physical and cognitive limitations that can negatively affect driving ability. These may include:

  • Vision and hearing loss – Vision and hearing tend to deteriorate with age, causing driving hazards such as failing to see pedestrians or road signs, failing to hear other vehicles’ horns or sirens, or inaccurately judging another vehicle’s position or speed.
  • Cognitive decline — 15-20 percent of people over age 65have mild cognitive impairment, and 11 percent have dementia. Any degree of cognitive impairment affects decision-making ability and slows reflexes, both of which are critical for reacting to driving conditions and hazards on the road.
  • Medication use — 87 percent of people over 65use prescription drugs. This percentage increases with age. Medications can have a negative effect on one’s ability to drive by causing drowsiness, reduced coordination, confusion, and blurry vision.
  • Other health issues — Chronic diseases, such as arthritis and diabetes, are more common in the elderly and can affect a person’s mobility and strength. As a person ages, they become more frail and are at greater risk of being seriously injured or killed in an accident.

Signs That Indicate Driving Risk

If your elderly parent has been involved in an accident in which they were at fault, this may provide a good reason to discuss their driving ability. Other signs that indicate that an elderly driver may be a hazard on the road include:

  • Failing to follow road rules, such as stopping at stop signs or giving way to other vehicles
  • Being slow to react to a change in driving conditions
  • Struggling to see road signs or traffic signals
  • Receiving tickets for traffic violations

State driving laws are also in place to ensure that elderly drivers are fit to drive. Most states require more frequent driver’s license renewals for seniors. Some include vision and driving tests as part of the renewal process.

Contact an Michigan Elder Law Attorney for Support

Being told they are unfit to drive can be very upsetting for an elderly person. However, it may be necessary to protect your loved one and others on the road by having a difficult but necessary conversation. An experienced and compassionate attorney can provide guidance in making the decision, taking action, and finding resources to support your loved one through this hard transition. If you have further questions or you need assistance with elements of long-term care planning for your older loved one, please contact us at 844.885.4200 to schedule an appointment.

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