How do we know when it's time to stop driving?
We have all had it happen…someone pulls out in front of us. We see the driver with the white hair and automatically wonder if they should be driving. But, let’s face it. We all make mistakes at times when we drive, no matter how old we are. There are a multitude of distractions, from just the busy daily life we have going on in our heads to sports activities with our kids and grandkids, to the dreaded cell phone. So how do we know when it’s time for us to stop driving? How do we know if it’s time for someone we love to stop driving? This is a very tricky question for most of us, as driving still signals what it did when we first got our license…it’s freedom.
Driving is a skill that should not be taken lightly, no matter what age you are. As we age, our driving skills inevitably decline. We do not have the same eye-hand coordination, our reaction time tends to decrease, we may have arthritis that makes turning our heads more difficult, muscle strength decreases, hearing may be impaired, vision is often reduced, and all these and other factors make us poorer drivers than we once were.
Other factors are also often in play as drivers age. Many medicines can have drowsiness or impaired motor skills as side effects. Of course, the most obvious drug that can reduce driving effectiveness is alcohol. Also, a host of diseases can impair driver performance like arthritis, prior strokes, certain neuromuscular disorders, Parkinson ’s disease, and any of the dementias.
The point is elderly drivers as a group may not be as competent as they were when first licensed or even last licensed. It is important for all of us to be aware of our own driving ability and that of loved ones and friends — particularly older ones. When safety genuinely becomes a concern, then it is time to have a conversation with the driver about their own safety and the safety of others. These conversations are hard. They cannot be threats but the tone must be on safety and the wellbeing of the individual and the wellbeing of the other drivers on the road. If the suggestion is to stop driving, then there needs to be a very well written plan that addresses the independence of the person and focuses on fulfilling all transportation needs. Taking the keys away from a driver or disconnecting the battery so the car cannot start are last resorts, along with taking the driver to the highway department for a test with the real possibility of a legal loss of license.
Here are a few tips for driving safely at any age- 1) Do not mix alcohol and driving. 2) Remediate any impaired loss of eyesight or hearing. 3) Be physically active and exercise and do balance practice. 4) Avoid bad weather driving. 5) Do not drive into the sun at early morning or sunset. 6) If on a divided highway, choose the slow lane. 7) Avoid night driving. 8) Avoid any distractions like phone, conversation, and radio commentary. 9) Choose safe routes. 10) Go to a driving school to be evaluated. 11) Seek a doctor’s recommendation on “ability to still drive.”
Driving is a sure sign of independence. It is also the primary method of transportation upon which we are totally dependent for much daily activity and needs. There are many things that can and should be done to preserve driving competence, but when those fail it becomes a matter of healthy aging to find other means of transportation and to stop driving.
Here in Butler County, one option for transportation is our bus. Call us at 316-775-0500 for more information on how the bus can serve you or your loved ones.