Did you know that California has more senior citizens than anywhere else in the country? This means there are more senior drivers on the road than any other state. Unfortunately, there are several factors that might make elderly drivers more prone to accidents – poor vision, slower reaction time, and possible medication side effects are just a few. Thankfully, there are a few simple actions senior citizens can take to protect themselves on the road. Follow this senior citizen driving checklist:
Does Your Loved One Seem Safe Enough to Drive?
It can be difficult to tell if your loved one’s age is affecting his or her driving ability. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Can they pass an eye examination? Common vision conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration all can affect a senior’s ability to drive. Ask a primary care doctor to perform a simple vision screening at his or her next appointment.
- Do you see any strange dents, scratches, or damage to your loved one’s car or garage?
- Have any neighbors’ observed your loved one’s driving and seen anything unsafe?
Take a Drive with Your Loved One
One of the best ways to check in on your loved one’s driving is to take a drive. Observe their driving behavior for safety. For example:
- Does he or she stop at all traffic signals and stop signs?
- Does he or she observe basic traffic laws like posted speed limits? Does he or she drive too fast or too slow?
- Does he or she appear nervous while driving?
Talk About Basic Safety
It can be difficult to talk to your loved one about driving safety, especially if that loved one is a parent. Adult children often feel uncomfortable playing the “parent” role, but it’s essential to protect your loved one’s safety. Ask your loved one if he or she allows friends to ride in the car with him or her, if he or she drives at night, or if he or she tries to avoid major highways.
You can also ask a doctor for assistance in convincing your senior loved one that it may be time to give up driving. They may be resistant to the idea, but enlisting the help of a professional can be a good idea. A physician can test reflexes, as well as vision and hearing, and open the discussion about a declining ability to drive safely.
Know Your Other Options
If you think that your loved one cannot or should not drive, know that driving is not an “all or nothing” activity. There are some programs that help elderly drivers adjust to changes that may occur. The AARP, for example, sponsors a program that helps older drivers adapt to driving changes and issues associated with driving. This organization can refer your loved one to a specialist who can help improve his or her driving.
You can also suggest modifications to your loved one’s driving schedule that improves safety. These include:
- Avoiding night driving, as well as at dawn and dusk.
- Driving familiar routes whenever possible
- Avoiding freeways and rush hour traffic
- Allowing plenty of time for travel
- Not driving alone
If your loved one cannot drive because of medical conditions, medications, or other reasons, encourage them to use public transportation instead. Many cities throughout California offer special discounts to seniors and door-to-door service may even be available for medical appointments or therapy. Local senior centers also offer alternative transportation methods to residents.