If you having an aging parent, the topic of whether or not they should still be driving may have come up. According to the CDC, in 2012, there were almost 36 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the U.S., and as the baby boomer population continues to age, that number will continue to go up. More importantly, the risk of being injured or killed in a car crash increases as you age, and an average of 586 older adults are injured every day in crashes, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. So what can we do to help protect our aging population from getting into a car crash?
How Can we Prevent Older Drivers from Car Crashes?
One way for us to help prevent auto accidents is for our elderly drivers to take certain steps to stay safe on the road. The CDC has included the following steps for older drivers:
- Exercising regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
- Speaking with a doctor and pharmacist about medication in order to reduce side effects and interactions.
- Having eyes checked at least once a year, and making sure to wear glasses or contact lenses as required.
- Driving only during daylight and in good weather. The more visibility, the better.
- Finding the safest route with well-lit streets, left turn arrows, and easy parking.
- Planning a route before you drive.
- Leaving a large following distance between you and the car in front of you.
- Avoiding distractions in the car, such as using a cellphone or listening to loud music.
- Considering potential alternative to driving, such as riding with a friend or family member, or using public transit.
Other helpful strategies include:
- Avoiding rush hour and heavy traffic;
- Avoiding fast-paced highway driving;
- Avoiding driving in unfamiliar places;
- Driving with a friend;
- If left turns are a problem, make three right turns at traffic lights instead.
What if We Need to do More?
The Denver Post did an article not too long ago about talking to your elderly parent about giving up driving. The piece notes how important it is to talk to your parent about this early on before there are problems. And to do that, you can check out CDOT’s Guide for Aging Drivers and Their Families.
Additionally, elderly drivers may be required to take a re-examination to keep their driver’s license. Reasons the State may require a re-examination include:
- Two accidents on your record within three years of each other;
- A family member or doctor requested it;
- A law enforcement officer filed an incident report and requested it;
- Involvement in a fatal crash.
A family member can request a re-examination based on written information they receive from a doctor, law enforcement agency, a court, or an immediate family member. The family member must contact the Department of Revenue and request a DR2401 or send a letter to request a re-examination.
The driver will be notified by mail that he or she has 20 days to take the re-examination. Beyond these possible re-examination requirements, there are no special requirements pursuant to state law for aging drivers. However, those over age 65 are unable to renew their licenses online.
The Guide put together a great list of potential warning signs that an elderly person’s driving abilities may be impacted. They include such things as:
- I get lost while driving.
- Other cars seem to appear from nowhere.
- Other drivers often honk at me.
- I feel sleepy when I drive.
- Busy intersections bother me.
- I have trouble turning the steering wheel.
- I have difficulty backing up.
- I am too cautious when driving.
There are many more signs as well, so be sure to check it out.
As a relative, potential problems to look out for in your loved one include:
- Forgetfulness or confusion;
- Using bad judgment when driving;
- Failing to follow the rules of the road;
- Cannot see where they are going;
- Exhibiting aggressive driving;
- Driving well below the speed limit;
- Experiencing multiple traffic crashes (including just dents or dings on the car); or
- Neighbors, friends or other indicate a problem.
If you see any of these behaviors in your parent, it may be time to sit them down and talk. You can also contact an aging specialist at the Denver regional Council of Governments at 303-480-6700, who can help you on how to approach this conversation.
If or when and elderly person needs to retire from driving, think about creating a transportation plan. Many may feel if there are no other options, to continue to drive even if it is unsafe for them. If a plan is created, then they know there are other safe options for them. Options include bus and trolley services, senior shuttles, walking, friends and family, taxis or Uber, etc. Think about creating a table of places most often visited and outlining how to get to and from there. CDOT has provided the following as an example:
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