As we age, natural changes to vision, hearing, and cognition can impair our ability to drive safely. Older adults are also generally more physically fragile, putting them at a greater risk of injury from car accidents.
Pride and fear of embarrassment can often prevent a person from admitting they can’t safely drive, making it important for their loved ones to step in and start a conversation. If you suspect your loved one can no longer drive, here are four signs to look for.
They Get Confused on the Road
When driving with your loved one, pay attention to how they navigate the roads. Do they take circuitous routes to familiar places? Do they take wrong turns or get flustered by speeding cars or bright headlights? These could be signs of confusion on the road.
Confusion on the road does not necessarily mean there’s a serious underlying issue, but it may mean driving poses a risk to their safety. It takes only one accident to lead to serious consequences.
Pro Tip: If you notice serious memory challenges in your loved one, then this could be an early sign of dementia. To learn more, read our guide to the warning signs of dementia.
They Misinterpret Traffic Signals
As any driver can tell you, missing a stop sign or accelerating on red can have deadly consequences. Pay close attention any time your loved one fails to follow a traffic signal, whether it’s a light or sign. Even if you’re unable to drive with them, you may notice a higher frequency of parking tickets.
There is a variety of reasons a person may misinterpret traffic signals; perhaps they’re having trouble reading the signs properly or they simply fail to notice them. Either way, these types of mistakes are a surefire sign your loved one can no longer drive safely.
Their Car Shows Visible Scuffs or Dents
Because driving is a means of independence for many, your loved one may keep their struggles from others in order to maintain their sense of freedom or out of natural human feelings like embarrassment. If you are still concerned about your loved one’s driving, take measures such as inspecting their car for damages. Dents or scratches on the hubcaps or bumpers can be signs of difficulty parking, merging, or reversing. If your loved one has trouble or is unable to remember where the damage came from, it may be time for a more serious discussion.
They Express Nervousness About Driving
The extreme noise and movement involved with driving — particularly in big cities — can be extremely stressful and cause older adults to become confused or otherwise impaired. That may already seriously affect our loved one’s driving, even if they do not know how to express it.
Your loved one may still drive often, but refuse to take highways or drive in traffic or inclement weather. Avoiding driving at night or in bright sun can signal deteriorating vision. It’s good for seniors to be self-aware of their limitations, but continuing to drive while possibly impaired only delays an inevitable accident.
The biggest obstacle to seniors giving up driving is often personal pride, since they want to maintain a sense of independence and freedom of movement. That’s why loved ones often hide their difficulties; the signs may be observable only when you drive with them or talk to others who have.
Discussing giving up driving will always be hard, but it’s important to remember that safety is more important than pride. Modern conveniences such as rideshares, car-rental services, and shuttle transport have made it so seniors do not give up access to the world at large once they turn in their keys for good.
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here