When It’s Time to Take the Car Keys From Elderly Parents

It is one of the most difficult conversations to have with a senior parent, but it is one that many adult children have to have every single day—taking away the car keys. There are many seniors who, as they age, get to a point where they are no longer able to safely drive on their own. At this point, it is time for a loved one to step in and stop them from driving before they hurt themselves or others while on the road.

Here are some indicators it may be time for your loved one to stop driving.

Health Changes That Can Impact a Senior’s Driving Abilities

It is best to try to predict when a senior will have issues with driving before an issue ever starts. With this in mind, there are a few different health changes to be aware of that are not only common in seniors, but that can impact that senior’s ability to drive.

These health changes include:

  • Visual decline that impacts depth perception and peripheral vision. Many seniors also struggle with night vision.
  • Hearing loss—which can make it difficult to hear important warning signs while operating a vehicle.
  • Limited mobility can make driving unsafe, particularly if a senior can’t step on a pedal, steer or turn their head effectively to check for oncoming traffic.
  • Medications can impact a senior’s ability to safely drive. Most medications will have warnings on them about operating vehicles or machinery if they are dangerous.
  • Dementia, even early signs of dementia can make driving more dangerous for seniors and put them at risk for senior’s issues.

Warning Signs It is Time to Take the Keys Away

While it is always best to catch potential issues before they happen, there are warning signs to be aware of that may indicate your senior is already an unsafe driver. Here are some of the more common indications that your loved one may be losing their ability to safely drive.

  • Struggling to drive at high speeds.
  • Signs of erratic driving, like abrupt lane changes or abrupt braking and acceleration.
  • Hitting curbs while driving and parking.
  • Getting lost while driving on familiar roads.
  • Being surprised or startled by other cars or pedestrians claiming they “came out of no where.”
  • Failing to use turn signals.
  • Drifting into other lanes for no reason.
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.
    Struggling to read street signs.
  • Getting an increase in traffic tickets or warning tickets.

The best way to tell if your loved one is experiencing these issues is to drive in a car with them regularly to assess their skills.

Keep these warning signs in mind if you have a senior loved one who is still driving. The more you can do to keep them and others safe on the road—the better it will be for everyone.

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