To Drive or Not to Drive When to Take the Keys Away

36 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 are on the roads. That number will only increase as the population continues to grey. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 586 older drivers are injured every day in automobile accidents.

As a younger person, the greatest thrill imaginable is getting a driver’s license and setting off for the open road. The ability to drive represents freedom, independence and mobility.

As we mature, a license is a means of survival. Driving becomes so much more; it allows us to get to work, earn money, go shopping for groceries, etc. In essence, it allows us to provide for our families to a certain extent. Once that freedom of mobility is tasted there is no going back. Yet, there may be times when it is necessary to give up that privilege. Various health conditions such as poor eyesight or cognitive impairments could cause someone to become a danger on the roads. When this happens, the driver and his family must make a tough decision.

Car Keys = Independence

If you are a caretaker who is concerned about the driving abilities of an older loved one, the issue is both emotional and challenging:

  • Taking away the privilege to drive is a very serious matter and can have far reaching psycho-social implications for the driver. Making the decision to revoke a driver’s license on behalf of a loved one is not an easy choice to make.
  • The decision does not have to be made alone. A physician should be ultimately responsible for making a final determination. The doctor may order a driving evaluation to be performed by a Physical Therapist or another credentialed professional who is trained in making such recommendations.
  • The driving evaluation is usually done with an adapted car equipped with dual controls to ensure safe conditions during the test. This trained professional will report the findings to the ordering physician and make recommendations based on the evaluation. Involving a doctor incorporates an outside voice into the conversation. This is especially important when the older person resists the suggestion he may not be capable of driving.
  • Using a doctor removes the onus of being the “bad guy” from the family and reduces the stress of the situation by having a third party provide an objective opinion. This outside voice will displace the anger away from the children and other family members. The choice to suspend driving privileges is based on objective data and not subjective emotion and opinions

Safety is the Key

Safety is a very serious consideration that could have very real consequences. A trained professional will assess the driver’s reaction time, assess mobility and agility as well as assess the driver’s ability to make safe judgments. A vision test may be administered checking distance and peripheral vision. This entire evaluation process boils down to one simple statement: Safety is Key!

It is never easy to give up hard earned freedoms. Driving is one of those freedoms that come with great responsibility. With great responsibility comes great risk. Mitigate that risk by developing a support network and other care options.

Contact the caring professionals at Beacon of Life Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly at 732-592-3400, info@beaconhss.com.

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