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PATTI'S BLOG

Saturday, December 13, 2008

DWE or Driving While Elderly

As the parent of a 16-year-old soon to be licensed driver, I think a lot about whether she will be safe on the roads -  and whether others who have to share the road with her will be safe!  At the same time, I worry about whether my aging clients are safe on the roads – and whether others are safe on the same roads with those aging drivers. In my practice I am regularly told stories –some funny and some frightening – about aging or impaired drivers. 

 

For my 16-year-old, the ability to get in the car and drive wherever she might like to go signals the ultimate freedom.  For my aging clients, the thought that they will no longer be able to drive wherever they want signals the end of that same freedom.  That is why the issues involved with the elderly drivers are so difficult and why we need to consider the options carefully before taking any action.

 

The families of the elderly often ask how they can get Mom or Dad to stop driving.  The story is usually that Dad or Mom runs stop signs, gets lost, or drives 25 miles an hour while other drivers zip by them at 75 miles an hour.  How do we know when its time to take away the keys?  And how do we take those keys away without a fight?

 

Clearly, there is no magic age at which driving skills decline, so what are some of the signs that Mom or Dad should either curtail some of their driving or stop altogether?

 

The website Aging Parents and Elder Care has a list of signs that a driver’s skills may be declining.  Among those signs are the following:

  

* Driving at inappropriate speeds, either too fast or too slow

 

* Having one or more near accidents or near misses

 

* Getting lost repeatedly, even in familiar areas

 

http://www.aging-parents-and-elder-care.com/Pages/Checklists/Elderly_Drivers.html

 

 

If Mom or Dad is showing some of the signs of declining skills, try to determine whether there is a medical reason for the decline that may be corrected with proper medical care.  Similarly, determine whether the elder may be able to modify their driving to accommodate the decline. 

 

Once you have determined that the problem is severe and the elder must completely stop driving, how can you get them off the road?

 

Here are a few suggestions:

 

* Confront Mom or Dad and let them know that you are afraid that they will injure themselves or others if they continue to drive.  Help them find alternative transportation options.  For help with this conversation, check out The Hartford’s Family Conversations with the Older Driver at:

 

http://www.thehartford.com/talkwitholderdrivers/having/main.htm

 

 

* Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles or have your loved ones doctor contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to report that the driver is no longer safe.

 

* Finally, you may have to either disable or take away the car. 

 

To help older drivers continue to drive as long as possible, consider driving classes offered through AARP.  You can find classes near you by checking out the AARP website at:  http://www.aarp.org/family/housing/driver_safety_program/


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