For many seniors, giving up the car keys signals a major loss of independence. Unfortunately, the risk for involvement in a fatal crash begins increasing at age 70 and is highest among adults older than 85, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Adult children should be aware of these telltale signs that an aging parent is no longer safe behind the wheel.
Frequent fender benders
Small accidents are a red flag that your parent struggles to drive safely. If you notice fresh dents and scratches on his or her car, take heed. He or she may feel embarrassed to tell you about these minor incidents, but they could be the precursor to a more dangerous crash.
Hearing or vision loss
A decline in senses is a normal part of aging. If your family member can no longer see well enough to read road signs or hear the noises of traffic and car horns, he or she may not have the sensory capacity to operate a motor vehicle.
Chronic health conditions
If your family member has a chronic health condition such as diabetes or heart disease, he or she can probably keep driving safely. But with other conditions, such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease, he or she may experience impaired cognitive function that makes driving dangerous. If you are not sure whether your parent should be driving with a specific diagnosis, talk to his or her doctor.
Even if physical problems do not prevent an aging parent from driving, he or she may become agitated or stressed behind the wheel. Pay attention if your loved one frequently gets lost, becomes involved in road rage incidents with other drivers or begins to get traffic tickets.
It can be difficult to raise this issue with your loved ones. However, it is important to do so before your parent causes a serious accident. Talk to your local department of motor vehicles about scheduling a driving test if you and your parent disagree about whether he or she can still drive safely.