When Is It Time To Take Away The Keys?
Imagine how difficult your life would be if you suddenly lost the ability to drive.
Not being able to drive is a fear many senior citizens deal with and for good cause.
According to the CDC, around 500 seniors are injured each day in traffic
accidents. However, being able to drive plays an important role in keeping seniors active and independent. Taking
away driving privileges isn't something that should be done lightly as it will have a very profound effect on the
person's quality of life.
Still, some elderly drivers are a danger to themselves and others and shouldn't be on
the road. Differentiating between the two is an important but sometimes difficult task for family members and care
givers. Not all elderly people are alike. Each has his own set of limitations that develop according to the medical
conditions he has developed and how well he has aged. Think of the 80 year old people you know. Some are not even
able to take care of themselves while others are still able to lead full productive lives. For that reason, it is
difficult for government to step in and set a mandatory age when driving must stop. That would be very unfair to
the spry seniors still leading active lives. Some states have gone to mandatory driving tests for license renewal
for senior citizens to help deal with the issue, but for the most part, it falls on family members to decide when
mom or pop have to relinquish the keys.
Unfortunately, many times, the elderly driver will think he is in full control of his
driving and won't want to stop even when it is clear to everyone else he is a danger on the road. In this case,
drastic steps may need to be taken. These include notifying the Department of Motor Vehicles in your area to see if
you can have his license revoked. You can take his keys, disable the car, or even remove the car from his home if
necessary but remember, elderly people, even those with dementia, have rights too. You wouldn't want to get in
trouble with the law when you only want to protect your loved one. If your situation is urgent, you may need to
talk with your local sheriff or police officer to find out what your options are.
It is best if you can sit down with your loved one and get them to agree with the
need to stop driving. Perhaps you can agree to certain limitations instead such as not driving at night or during
rush hour, staying off interstates, driving locally only, driving only in clear weather, and not going anywhere
alone. You may want to consider elderly defensive driving courses such as the one sponsored by AARP that deals
specifically with issues older drivers face such as decreased vision and hearing.
You won't want to assume an elderly person has diminished driving capacity based on
age alone. Consider medications too. Most seniors take one or more medications each day and some of these cause
physical disturbances that can interfere with driving. Ride in the car with your loved one and see if he obeys
traffic regulations and drives at the proper speed. Also, observe his general health and behavior at other times.
Does he fall frequently? Does he have periods of confusion or memory lapses? Is his vision failing or hearing
The elderly who drive with diminished capacity increase the risk of accidents that
can injure them or someone in another car. They may also get lost and drive endlessly, looking for a way home and
end up in a bad neighborhood. They may also be unable to find where they parked when coming out of a store and end
up wandering in brutally cold or scorching hot weather. The dangers of elderly driving shouldn't be downplayed just
because your loved one will be inconvenienced. Safety is the primary concern.
When the time comes to take away the keys, the transition will go much smoother if
you help make other arrangements for your loved one. Have family members and friends take turns driving your loved
one where he wants to go. Make arrangements with the church or other social groups to take advantage of group
transportation. Consider using public transportation if it is affordable and convenient. You may even need to
consider moving your loved one away from an isolated area into a group living arrangement where most everything he
needs is provided on the grounds.
Elderly driving is a hot topic for debate. No one wants unsafe drivers on the road,
yet many seniors are fully capable of driving well into their golden years if they make the necessary
modifications. This will allow them to live independent, active lives that will improve their quality of
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