Growing older presents many obstacles and for the fortunate who live long lives in relative good health, unavoidably there comes gradual losses of independence, perhaps the most difficult of which is giving up the car keys. The loss of the ability to drive translates into not being able to run to the grocery store, attend church or visit friends without depending on others. It can often cause panic at the thought, but if safety is compromised by a senior continuing to drive, it becomes a necessary sacrifice.
Often the decision to give up the keys is a joint decision between the senior driver and his or her family. The senior may be questioning when he or she will reach the point that it becomes inevitable. Often, the driver may cling to the keys for longer than is wise, and having family and/or friends help ease that transition is crucial.
Some of the indications that a person is nearing the time that he should not be driving are:
- Confusion while driving common driving routes
- Anxiousness in driving scenarios that once where effortless
- Nervousness with once simple maneuvers such as merging
- Delayed reaction time.
Human reaction time slows as we age and reaction time is crucial in avoiding automobile collisions, especially in dense traffic situations. The aging individual should honestly assess whether they have had instances on the road attributable to decreased reaction time such as near miss collisions with other vehicles, animals or pedestrians. In addition to the above considerations, there are other changes as we age that can affect our ability to safely drive, such as decreased vision and/or hearing, or side effects from necessary medications.
For friends and family of the senior, it is a good idea to ride with the senior periodically to objectively assess his or her driving abilities. If there is a question about whether it is time to give up the keys there are professional services available to assess the driver, through the DMV or a licensed driving instructor.
It is a major adaptation in the life of a senior, and generally not a positive one as it signifies a large loss of independence. Family and friends should ensure that the senior has the ability to get around to shopping and church. Many communities have driving pools that take seniors to popular spots as well.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, please give us a call for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400, or if you are outside of the greater Sacramento area, toll-free at (800) 404-5400.