How to Tell If It’s Time to Take the Keys: Tips for Evaluating Senior Driving

Portrait Of Smiling Senior Woman Driving Car

For millions of seniors and their families, one of the most difficult discussions to bring up is undoubtedly the topic of driving. There often comes a time when a senior’s family has to step in and take the keys, letting their loved one know they can no longer drive on their own. This is an understandably difficult conversation to bring up, but it is one that so many seniors and their families need to have.

One of the most difficult parts about discussing driving with seniors is to know when it is really time to take a senior’s driving privileges away. One of the best ways for family members and loved ones to make a smart and safe choice on the matter is to ride along with the senior while they drive. Here are a few things that you can look for while on this “ride along” to determine if it may be time to talk to your loved one about driving.

  • Look for obvious signs that their judgment is impaired. If seniors are trying to make unsafe turns, speeding through yellow or red lights or failing to operate in a cautious manner, they may no longer be able to operate a vehicle safely.
  • Check the vehicle for dents and scrapes that may indicate they have been hitting items or other cars.
  • Watch their ability to stay within a lane without drifting. This is one of the most common issues that causes senior driver accidents.
  • Check for reflexes when breaking. Many seniors start to have slower reaction times when they age. When these slow reaction times impact their ability to break on time or react to unexpected obstacles in the road, it is time to take their keys away.
  • Watch seniors drive at night. This is typically the most challenging time to operate a vehicle for most seniors.
  • Look for signs that the senior has forgotten the rules of the road or any of the traffic laws.
  • Pay close attention to the senior’s eyes when they drive. Are they squinting a lot or leaning forward to see? Are they having trouble reading signs on the road? In some cases, senior driving issues all come down to unattended vision problems.

While observing the senior, try not to be a “backseat” driver or to criticize their driving. This will only make them uncomfortable or more stressed. Instead, just make your observations quietly.

It is important to do one of these ride along drives every few months. For most seniors, the signs of aging, paired with potential issues such as dementia or vision loss, means that their driving abilities can change quite rapidly. A senior may be “OK” to drive one month, and then be a danger to themselves and others a few months later. Routine check-ups are the best way to make sure that everyone is safe on the road whenever your senior loved one gets behind the wheel.

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