When Is It Time to Give Up the Keys: Older Adults and Safe Driving

Car Keys

For most of us, driving is a necessary part of our day. Even if you are retired, it is essential to maintaining your independence. Just the idea of giving up the keys can make an older adult shudder. But the facts speak for themselves when it comes to older adults and driver safety. Declining visual acuity makes it more difficult for older drivers to see road obstacles and hazards. Slower reflexes delay reaction time. That creates for a troubling mix.

With older drivers, the risk to others isn’t as great as the risk they create for themselves. According to the Institute for Highway Safety, older drivers have fewer accidents that cause harm to others than teenagers do. But they are more likely to have an accident that causes them to harm themself. In 2009, almost 4,000 drivers 70 and older died in automobile accidents.

How can you tell if it is time for your loved one to hang up their keys?

For starters, you can look at their car. Do you see bumps, bangs, dents and scrapes? Those are early indicators that they aren’t do well navigating their way around town. Another suggestion is to take a ride with them and see how well they drive.

What can you do if you think they need to stop driving?

Before you demand their keys, do some research on local transportation. Call the Area Office on Aging to see if they keep a list of options for older adults. In Northern Kentucky, you can also call the Senior Services office for help with transportation advice.

Once you are confident that you have a plan to help them get where they need to go, you can talk with them about how they feel about driving and if they are willing to hang up the keys.

License Renewal for Senior Drivers in the State of Kentucky

The state of Kentucky generally requires adult drivers who are aged 70 and older to renew their license in person. In addition to the vision test, they may also be asked to complete a written test. The state also has a Medical Review Board program that can be asked to evaluate older drivers before a license renewal is issued.

Older Driver Resources

If you need more information or would like to find out more about driver safety classes for older adults, AARP has put together some great resources. You can find them at: http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/driver_safety/.

Have you had to talk with an older driver about giving up the keys? What was the most difficult part of the conversation?
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