Driver Safety and Evaluation
Driving as an older adult comes with its challenges. Some age-related conditions may affect your driving, or you may be concerned about your loved one's driving. No matter your situation, these tips and resources can help older drivers and their families.
Below, you can find driver safety information and tips to help your loved one stay safe on the road. Also, be sure to check out the Safety and Training information listed on page 74 in your Explore Your Options directory.
Driver Safety Resources
- AARP Driver Information Line: 1-888-227-7669
- Americans for Older Driver Safety
- Avenues Driving Rehabilitation Program: 913-272-1710
- Johnson County Community College Defensive Driving & Driver Education Classes: 913-469-2323
- Kansas Department of Insurance Accident Prevention Courses: 800-432-2484 or 785-296-3071
- Kansas Department of Revenue Driver Control: 785-296-3671, 785-296-3613 TTY; for unsafe drivers, file a license revocation request Tuesday-Thursday.
- KU HealthPartners Driving & Mobility Services: Assessment and rehabilitation of driving skills for older adults and individuals with medical conditions; 913-945-9673
- The Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City: 816-751-7782 or 816-751-7700
Tips for Older Drivers
Giving up driving is very difficult for most people. Driving gives a person freedom and control, a sense of self esteem and independence. Many elderly drivers assess their own skills and begin changing their driving habits – not driving after dark, or at busy times of the day.
Overall, elderly drivers are responsible and experienced. However, a few high profile accidents have brought this issue to national attention. Below are some suggestions and options for older drivers and their families.
- Have regular check-ups including eye and hearing exams
- Take part in an exercise program so that you maintain your health and can react quickly
- Ask your doctor if any of your medications can affect your driving
- Reduce noise in your car; turn off the radio
- Ask passengers to not disturb you in high traffic or confusing situations
- Plan rest stops in any long-distance driving and allow plenty of time
- Do not use a cell phone while driving
- Do not travel with your pets unless they are in a cage
- Avoid high traffic times and areas; drive only during the daylight hours
- Do not drive in bad weather; wear your seat belt properly
- Make sure your car seat and mirrors are adjusted for your height
- Keep your car well-maintained and equipped with emergency equipment such as a flashlight and blanket
- Take a refresher driving course to improve your skills and possibly get a discount on your insurance
Find tips from AAA on staying safe on the road, concentrating on specific issues with which many seniors have difficulty.
Are you concerned about your loved one’s driving?
If you have a loved one that you are concerned about, the first thing to do is to approach them directly. Be prepared with specific incidents and suggestions.
Your approach can make all the difference in how well they hear you and their willingness to change their driving habits. “Dad, you’re too old to drive anymore” won’t go near as far as “Dad, I’m concerned about your driving and the fender-bender you had yesterday. Can we discuss some ways to help you drive a little longer and still be safe on the road?”
Some signs that may indicate a need for discussion include: forgetting how to get to familiar places, failure to follow traffic signs, poor judgment of distance, making turns that are too wide or too tight, making poor decisions in traffic such as failing to yield or too slow to react to emergencies, nervousness or fatigue after driving. Another sign is a series of fender-bender accidents.
Help your loved one find alternative solutions to driving. Offer to take them to the big wedding on Saturday or the funeral on Monday. Would the grandchild like more practice driving by taking grandma to get her hair done? Give gift certificates or cash for birthdays that can be used for transportation other than driving. Your assistance and guidance in making this transition needs to be ongoing.
Seniors and Driving: Help your loved one stay safe
Age alone does not tell you who should or should not drive. Some age-related conditions do affect driving. With some age-related conditions, it helps to limit night driving, avoid freeways, and limit the distance you drive.
Medical and eye exams can help a person detect issues with vision, hearing, memory, health conditions or medications that might affect reaction time and other driving skills.
Signs that indicate unsafe driving are:
- Close calls
- People honking
- Difficulty staying in the lane
- Difficulty judging distances
- Driving too slowly
- Confusion about directions in familiar places
- Hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake
- Getting frequent tickets or warnings
Let drivers know if you are concerned. Be respectful, but say “I am concerned about your safety and the safety of others.” As a last resort, family members or caregivers of resistant drivers with significant memory loss may need to disable the car or “lose” the keys.
Assessing driving ability before an accident can help make the roads safer for everyone. To find alternative transportation ask family or friends, use public transportation, consider living arrangements where you can walk to stores, or call about senior services in your area.