Telling someone they should no longer drive, or being told that you should no longer drive, can become a very stressful time.
There is an element of freedom for anyone who can sit behind the wheel of a car, turn the key, look out the front windshield and say, “I can go wherever the road takes me.” However, there comes a time when we can no longer drive a vehicle safely due to changes in vision, slower reaction time, cognitive changes and even mobility. We might not even know our ability to drive safely has been compromised.
You are not alone if these are challenges you are facing, or if you need to prepare for these challenges in the future. There are activities you can do now and annually thereafter, to monitor yourself and those who you care for, and these activities will help prepare you for the stressful conversations you may need to have.
Annual communication is important to start the process and get the topic of unsafe driving on the table. Think of it as investing for retirement– it is harder to retire if you only start saving the last few years of your career, rather then if you had been saving all your life.
It is recommended annual safe driving communication with loved ones begin at the age of 65. These discussions can be very basic and quick, but should be planned so all parties know it is the annual discussion on safe driving. Topics for these discussions can include personal health concerns, medication and how it may affect driving, annual eye exams and even if the driver has their own concerns that may include driving at night.
Many of us start to experience changes in their vision at age 65. Some of these changes include visual detection/perceptions, slower dark adaptation, increased glare sensitivity, decreased color sensitivity, reaction time decrements and even decreased balance control.
By the age of 75, or sooner for some where red flags have been identified, additional discussion should take place. A self-completed form entitled Am I a Safe Driver? can be reviewed with the driver. This form can help an individual become self-aware that there may be some personal driving concerns that they have not thought about. The check box form contains questions like “My friends or family members say they are worried about my driving” or “Other drivers often honk at me” or “Left-hand turns make me nervous.” Also, there are a few activities that can be utilized.
In the Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers there are two exercises you can have a driver complete to help identify possible red flags that could affect safe driving. These exercises are Trail-Making Test Part B (page 23 and 30) and the Clock Drawing Test (page 24). These exercises look at a person’s general cognitive function, working/short/long-term memory, visual processing, abstract thinking and selective/divided attention. Instructions on how to conduct the exercise are also included in the Physician’s Guide. Conducting these exercises early is preferred and does require someone to perform the exercise with the driver. Early completion of these exercises can be saved and will assist in the development of a baseline needed to assist with poor performance down the road.
The purpose of starting with early communication about individual health, driving concerns, completing cognitive exercises and allowing drivers to self-evaluate themselves, is to set the stage for the stressful conversation of asking someone to give up their keys. The conversation may still be hard and even stressful; however, you will have more facts to bring to the table which might be needed to convince a driver to give up their keys. The facts might also assist with helping the driver agree to limit their driving, such as to eliminate night driving, rush hour traffic driving or driving on the highway.
Before you have a conversation with someone to ask them to stop driving, be prepared with a plan. This plan should include:
- Summary of past conversations and agreed upon commitments
- Summary of a possible decline in the results from the cognitive exercises
- Summary of past accidents
- Possible discussion on declining health
- If the individual wants a second opinion, have a list of Certified Driver Rehab Specialists or Stroke Rehab facilities readily available who can conduct a behind the wheel evaluation of the driver. Sometimes these evaluations can be prescribed by the driver’s physician.
- If the individual does give up their keys, be ready to discuss what the best course of action will be so that the individual can still get around to their doctor appointments, shopping, entertainment, etc … you may need to make a lifestyle change to accommodate and assist with providing this individual with transportation.
- If they decide to give up their keys, be sure to accompany them to the local motor vehicle facility to have them turn in their driver’s license and receive a state identification card.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell someone they should no longer drive. However, with utilizing some of the suggestions above, the better prepared the conversation will be planned.
For additional information about safe driving for an organization, check out : https://www.cbservices.org/us/newsletter/riskfactor/ePlan_fleet_MVR_flyer.pdf