25 Warning Signs That Your Aging Parent Should Stop Driving
Most adult children would like their parents to maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to move safely and confidently on the road, but it is also just as important to scan their ability to drive when vision, memory, strength, flexibility, and quick reaction time decline as they reach age 55. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet health and safety officials report several struggles aging populations may have when practicing safe driving and most relate to keeping up with the common driving practices and better self-awareness in recognizing changes in traffic laws and individual impairments. These are the most common driving areas where mature driver populations struggle most:
- Attention span
- Following traffic signals and road signage
- Impaired driving, including prescription and over-the-counter medication
- Keeping up with the flow of traffic
- Merging into traffic
- Properly changing lanes
- Reaction time
- When making left turns
- While driving at night
- Yielding to traffic, bicycles, and pedestrians (including school-age children)
In addition, age-related diseases such as dementia and conditions like arthritis and diabetes may make it more difficult for an aging driver to safely operate a motor vehicle. The Federal Highway Administration reports that older drivers, those age 70-years-of-age and up, are involved in more motor vehicle fatalities than any other driving group, with the exception of drivers under age 20.
Driving Risk Self-Assessment Questions
Self-awareness may be slower for older populations, and aging drivers may not realize the true risk they carry each time they get behind the wheel. While helping your aging driver through a self-assessment and discussion on driving may be difficult, it is responsible and likely inevitable. But a simple answer of “yes” or “no” to these few questions, written by the researchers at the American Medical Association (AMA), can help aging drivers and their family members decide if driving abilities need to be evaluated or revoked.
- I get lost while driving
- My friends or family members say they are worried about my driving
- Other cars seem to appear from nowhere
- I have trouble finding and reading signs in time to respond to them
- Other drivers drive too fast
- Other drivers often honk at me
- I feel uncomfortable, nervous, or fearful while driving
- After driving, I feel tired
- I feel sleepy when I drive
- I have had some “near-misses” lately
- Busy intersections bother me
- Left-hand turns make me nervous
- The glare from oncoming headlights bothers me
- My medication makes me dizzy or drowsy
- I have trouble turning the steering wheel
- I have trouble pushing down the foot pedal
- I have trouble looking over my shoulder when I back up
- I have been stopped by the police for my driving
- People no longer will accept rides from me
- I have difficulty backing up
- I have had crashes that were my fault in the past year
- I am too cautious when driving
- I sometimes forget to use my mirrors or signals
- I sometimes forget to check for oncoming traffic
- I have more trouble parking lately
Drivers who use smart self-management to review their driving skills can retain their independence longer, while limiting risks to themselves and others. But it at this stage, these questions make them uncomfortable and anxious, most aging drivers will decide it is best to no longer operate a motor vehicle and conversation about selling their vehicle or removing keys may be necessary. Remember, this will be tough and should be a time when family members or friends can offer support and come up with solutions to help their elder stay mobile.
What Older Drivers Need to Know About Kentucky License Renewal
Kentucky drivers who are 70-years-of-age or older at the time their current driver license expires are generally required to renew their license in person at a local driver license office. When an older driver renews their driver’s license, they will be asked a few general health questions as part of the screening process and it is important they are truthful.
In addition to taking a vision test, older drivers may be asked to take a written knowledge test as well. In preparation for this, you can help them review the Kentucky Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for their license renewal.
If an Aging Driver Wishes to Continue Operating a Motor Vehicle
Some older drivers will find removing their vehicle and license to be extremely difficult and families or friends may need to position boundaries and request they restrict driving times before getting to that point. Some common strategies are to encourage:
- Driving only during the daylight and during good weather conditions
- Avoiding rush hour and heavy traffic and fast-paced highway driving
- Avoiding driving in unfamiliar areas
- Stop driving if taking prescription drugs or medications with known impaired risks
If restriction fails, reporting a loved one as an unsafe driver may seem drastic, but in some cases, it may be the only way to handle a serious situation and help reduce their car crash risk or injury, including death, to others. Kentucky has a Medical Review Board Program consisting of physicians from various fields, and if required, evaluates drivers. If there is any question about the aging operator’s physical condition or their ability to drive a motor vehicle safely, they will be required to meet with their physician. If a physician’s statement indicates a serious physical or mental condition, the driver will be required to attend a driver reexamination.
Car Accident Caused by an Aging Driver
Drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and passengers who suffer injuries caused by an older driver who should not be driving may be entitled to compensation to help cover related medical costs, income loss, and recovery needs. If you have been involved or injured in a crash caused by an aging driver, please call us at 888-709-9329.
You can also contact us by e-mail to schedule an appointment with one of our personal injury attorneys located in Owensboro and Madisonville.
Additional resources for aging drivers
- AAA, seniordriving.aaa.com
- AARP Driver Safety, aarpdriversafety.org
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Older+Drivers