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Elevate your Bankrate experience
Get insider access to our best financial tools and content
Elevate your Bankrate experience
Get insider access to our best financial tools and content
Elevate your Bankrate experience
Get insider access to our best financial tools and content
Elevate your Bankrate experience
Get insider access to our best financial tools and content
Elevate your Bankrate experience
Get insider access to our best financial tools and content
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Older individuals often find themselves dealing with more health issues, including physical and mental ones, which may prevent them from driving to the best of their ability. Health issues may range from stiff joints and aching muscles to slower reflexes and symptoms of dementia. These ailments might be a natural part of aging and somewhat expected, but they can also make driving more of a challenge.
While aging is a natural part of life, it does not make the conversation any easier when we need to tell the ones we care about that it might be time to put away the keys. Having this conversation is tough, but it is in the best interest of the individual’s safety. Drivers who are 65 and older are 16% more likely to cause an accident compared to adults aged 25 to 64. There is no designated time frame for when you should tell someone they should stop driving for the sake of their safety and others, which means recognizing the right time is often left to the caregivers or loved ones. Knowing the signs and understanding how to start the conversation can go a long way.
Seniors may face health issues that impact their ability to drive safely. Although not an exhaustive list, the health problems an older person might encounter could include the following.
Vision problems can stem from multiple causes, such as glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration. Bad vision limits a driver from seeing signs clearly or recognizing their location. Seeing an eye doctor each year is critical to monitoring changes in vision.
Whether it is due to sore muscles or part of the aging process, limited neck mobility can affect senior drivers in various ways. When a driver is unable to turn their head properly, it can lead to limited field of vision and a greater likelihood of not seeing another driver in their blind spots.
Strokes can cause long-term brain damage, including severe lack of coordination. Driving after a stroke is possible, but is only advised once it has been cleared by a physician. Some states may even require a note from the physician with a medical clearance to drive. As 75% of strokes occur in older populations, the cognitive effects may have a greater impact on seniors’ driving capabilities than many people realize.
Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s are particularly vulnerable to having difficulty driving, especially since their ability to make decisions is heavily impacted. Dementia can be caused by Alzheimer’s or other factors and occurs in up to 7% of people age 60 and older. Warning signs usually include an individual forgetting where they are going or how to get home. However, they may not realize their ability to react quickly and reliably while driving can also be compromised.
Stiff joints, including arthritis pain, can make it more difficult to turn your head as needed, shift gears or perform other driving functions. Over 49% of people in the U.S. aged 65 and older have been diagnosed with arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Drivers may find it helpful to choose cars with automatic transmission and large mirrors to make driving with arthritis a little easier.
In addition to common health issues, older people tend to use more prescription drugs, which can have side effects like drowsiness, blurred vision and confusion and have negative impacts on driving. Recognizing these concerns, many states also require additional information from senior-aged drivers, such as visual tests and in-person license renewals. In Georgia, for example, anyone aged 64 or older must pass an additional eye exam with each renewal and must renew every five years, versus every eight years for younger drivers.
The ability to exhibit safe driving behavior does not usually come to an immediate halt, but is typically rather a gradual process that can eventually lead to putting lives in danger. Look for the following signs if you are concerned about an older person’s ability to drive:
Accidents can happen at any time, even without the onset of health issues. Because of this, it is vital to select the right auto insurance, including the right amount and types of coverage. In addition to providing liability coverage in case you cause injuries or property damage to someone else, auto insurance also offers financial protection to cover damages to your car and personal medical expenses following a covered incident if you have full coverage.
Some of these signs may be easier to observe than others. If you do not live near the older drive you are observing, it makes it even more challenging to watch for warning signals. One tactic is to start the conversation early prior to any issues becoming noticeable. You can reassure them that there are other options and resources available if they are showing signs of poor driving skills or diminished physical and cognitive abilities.
Relaying your concerns to an aging friend or family member and letting them know you believe they can no longer drive safely is a difficult conversation to have, but keep these tips in mind when you do:
Even if someone is unable to drive on their own, there are other transportation options so that they can get around.
As with many aspects of protecting the people we love and care for, deciding to talk to someone about giving up their driving privileges involves several emotions. It is not a black and white issue with a one-size-fits-all solution. By working together to keep ongoing communication about safe driving and highlighting the numerous alternatives available, you can help create solutions that work best for everyone.
Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. Bankrate is compensated in exchange for featured placement of sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. This compensation may impact how, where and in what order products appear. Bankrate.com does not include all companies or all available products.
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