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Older Drivers & Safety: How to Assess a Loved One's Fitness for Driving

In many families, the topic of an older adult’s fitness for driving can easily become a contentious one. Some adult children mistakenly believe that seniors cause many of the accidents that occur on our nation’s highways. It makes them worry about the safety of their loved one when they climb behind the wheel of their car.

The reality is that older drivers cause less harm to others than teen drivers do, and fatalities among older drivers are even trending downward. Those numbers have decreased by 43 percent since 1975. But there is a caveat: when older adults do have accidents, they are likely to cause serious injury to themselves.

A total of 4,366 people aged 70 and older died in car accidents in 2015. Statistics show fatal accidents begin to climb at age 75 and increase most notably at age 80.

How can you objectively assess your senior loved one’s driving skills?

In honor of Older Driver Awareness Week from December 4–8, we have a few suggestions for you to consider.

Tips for Objectively Evaluating an Older Adult’s Driving Skills

We all age differently. This means a senior’s age can’t be the only factor to consider when evaluating their fitness for driving.  

Aging does, however, create definite physical changes that can impact an older adult’s ability to perform some routine driving tasks. Among them are slower reflexes, less flexibility, vision loss, and hearing impairment.

Here are a few ways you can check to see if any of these aging-related issues might be affecting your loved one’s driving:

Go for a Ride: An easy way to assess your loved one’s driving skills is to take a ride with them while they drive. It actually might be beneficial to ride with them twice: once during rush hour and again after dark. How confident do they seem? Are they nervous or overly confident? Both can be dangerous. Do they struggle when trying to look over their shoulder to merge on to the freeway or change lanes? Are they sticking to their lane or drifting over the center line? Do they drive along at a comfortable speed and keep up with traffic? Does nighttime driving seem to be a struggle? Many seniors find the glare of driving at night to be especially difficult.

Examine Their Vehicle: The condition of an older driver’s car can tell the real story of how well they are managing. Is the car full of bumps, scratches, and scrapes? Are side mirrors damaged or missing? Sometimes seniors who are struggling with driving don’t even realize they are bumping in to curbs or scraping their side panels on medians. It might also help to take a look at their garage—both the garage door entrance and the spot where they park. Does it look like they are bumping in to things?

Interactive Driving Assessment: AAA created an objective older driver safety resource your loved one can complete online or download to take offline. Drivers 65 Plus: Check Your Performance is a self-rating tool that walks older drivers through a serious of questions. It also offers facts and suggestions to keep senior drivers safer.

We hope this information will help you as you begin to assess whether or not your aging loved one is still safe behind the wheel.

HarborChase Senior Care Communities

Transportation services are among the many amenities you will find at HarborChase communities. For adults who no longer want the worry or expense of maintaining a car, a move to one of our communities might be the solution. Our local transportation service means you can leave the driving to us!

Call the HarborChase community nearest you to learn more.