For many seniors, the idea of giving up driving sparks feelings of anger, anxiety and loneliness. Nearly 90 percent of aging adults rely on their cars and driving to stay independent. Though many seniors 70 and older are able to drive safely into their later years, it is critical for families to have a plan in place before a medical or cognitive condition makes it no longer safe for their senior loved one to get behind the wheel. To help families navigate these sensitive conversations about driving cessation, caregivers can look for several potential warning signs that a senior may be losing the confidence or ability to drive.
10 Warning Signs that Seniors May Be Unsafe Drivers
- Mysterious dents. If an older adult can’t explain what happened to his or her car, or you notice multiple instances of damage, further investigation is needed to understand if there’s been a change in the senior’s driving abilities.
- Trouble turning to see when backing up. Aging may compromise mobility and impact important movements needed to drive safely. Fortunately, newer vehicles offer back-up cameras and assistive technologies that can help older adults continue to drive safely.
- Confusing the gas and brake pedals. Dementia can lead to a senior being confused about how his or her car operates.
- Increased irritation and agitation when driving. Poor health or chronic pain can trigger increased agitation that may, in turn, lead to poor judgment on the road.
- Bad calls on left-hand turns. Turning left can be tricky and dangerous for older drivers, and many accidents occur where there is an unprotected left turn (no turning arrow).
- Parking gone awry. Difficulty parking, including parallel parking, could cause damage to an older adult’s vehicle as well as to those around it.
- Difficulty staying within the lanes. If you’ve spotted a driver zigzagging along the road, it could be a sign that fatigue or vision problems are making it difficult to stay on course.
- Delayed reaction and response time. Aging slows response times, which may create a situation where an older adult may cause an accident or be unable to respond quickly enough to prevent a crash.
- Driving the wrong speed. Driving too fast or too slow may be indicators that a driver’s judgment may be impaired.
- Riding the brake. Riding the brake could be a sign that a driver no longer has confidence in his or her skills.