Oct 18th, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

When Should I Stop Driving?

When is the time that I must give up driving?  Seniors are faced with this at varying stages.  States do not always police carefully and methodically the ability of older persons to be behind the wheel. Driving is, to be sure, a privilege.  Sometimes that privilege is abused, particularly when it is clear that certain impairments and habits endanger both driver and others.

There are a variety of considerations that need to be assessed to determine if ability to drive is a viable option for older persons.

Some of these are:

  • Even though still carrying a valid license, this  does not insure ability to drive. If there are issues of safety, ability, and judgment that are of concern, a test should be taken, no matter that the license is still valid.
  • A visit to an eye specialist should occur at least annually to determine field of vision, corrections needed, and ability to make out signs, be aware of traffic signals, and what is happening on all sides of the vehicle. Such an occasion should also include an examination by one’s physician to determine the advisability of driving.
  • Judgment factors should be evaluated.  How quickly does the driver respond to sudden requirements, e.g. the sudden appearance of a motorcycle or bicyclist, a cross walk, a quick stop by the auto in front of him/her.
  • What is the ability of the driver in finding the way to a particular destination.  How good is memory?
  • How well is the driver able to back up, parallel park, be aware of necessary turns?
  • Even though one’s ego is often tied to being able to drive, the ego is not always a good judge of whether driving is wise.  Is there someone else in the family or friendship circle, able to provide consistent availability to take over the driving?
  • How well does the driver follow directions?  Are there any hearing issues?

If all or most indicators suggest that driving is inadvisable, find gentle and non threatening ways, if possible, to introduce the matter.  Try, as best you can, not to make it a contest of wills.  Losing control of those activities and behaviors which help identify personhood is one of the most difficult adjustments of growing older.  If you remain convinced the loved one in question should be tested for adequate driving skills, ask the family doctor to make an assessment and leave it up to him/her to make further recommendations.

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