RBC | Driving is a feeling of freedom you get when you’re able to just travel wherever you wish. But, there may come a point in time 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 their driving can be difficult and is often delayed until their driving is to a point of being dangerous. But if delayed too long, it can be a hesitation that can turn fatal.
I speak from personal experience when I lost my grandmother in a crash. The signs were there prior to the fatal crash, but we failed to see them as a serious enough problem and hesitated in having her 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 may 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 and possibly hurting himself or someone else. A problem you may face is the older driver believing they are driving fine, when in fact you are seeing 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, driving at dusk or 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 to ways you can extend your driving by being aware of any changes that could be dangerous on the roadways for you and others by adjusting those problems as they arise.
For family members with aging relatives, plan ahead so when the time comes everyone involved knows what needs to be done. Have a discussion with family members about what should be done, and how everyone should respond when and if the time comes.
Be sensitive to ways you can preserve the older driver’s self-respect. Present concerns in non-threatening terms. Use “I” messages rather than “You” messages. Focus on a plan that maximizes community safety and try to look for ways that can put into place that allow the older person to continue to drive if possible by changing habits.
Don’t wait to take steps that could save lives. For more information on driving for the elderly visit www.nhtsa.gov.
As always, safe travels!
By MASTER TROOPER GARY CUTLER | Colorado State Patrol