Friday, October 26, 2007

Poor Driving Skills- Now What?

If you are concerned about an elderly driver, closely monitor their driving before deciding whether they need to brush up on their driving skills or give up their driver’s license altogether.

1. Watch for changes in driving habits, general behavior, and health.

2. Encourage a driving evaluation through your local Department of Motor Vehicles, along with refresher driving lessons and the AARP Driver Safety course.

3. Offer some evaluation tools to assess driving risk, or work together on these quizzes.

4. Explore ways to reduce driving, such as making purchases online or through mail-order catalogs. If possible, arrange for home delivery of groceries, and home visits by personal care providers.

5. If necessary, get support from the doctor and other family members.

6. Look into alternative ways of getting around. Maybe your loved one can continue to drive some of the time (such as in the daytime or off the freeway), and alternative transportation can fill the need for rides at other times.

7. If you feel that it is time to talk to your loved one about stopping driving, approach the issue with sensitivity. A driver’s license signifies more than the ability to drive a car; it is a symbol of freedom, independence and independent living, self-sufficiency, being employed, fun and spontaneity, involvement in social and religious activities. Some see the ability to driver as a right; however, it is a priveledge. Understandably, driving is not a privilege that anyone—teenager or elder—wants to relinquish willingly. As important as it is to treat the senior driver with respect and not jump to unjust conclusions, it is also important to help the elderly driver retire from the road.

Start slowly and try to persuade the senior to give up the keys. Some approaches that may work:

Be understanding about resistance. The senior may dismiss you and refuse to listen to you. Emotion may get in the way of a rational decision.

Ask questions, rather than make demands. For example, “Would you consider not driving at night?”

Talk about safety considerations. Many senior drivers who shouldn’t be driving have already had an accident or some close calls. Remind the impaired driver of the danger of serious injuries and that the safety of others is also at risk.

Explain transportation options. Help the senior driver see that living without a car won’t make them permanently homebound. Acknowledge the lifestyle change, but also show them how to continue favorite activities and to remain mobile.

Emphasize financialsavings. The cost savings associated with giving up a car may be a selling point for some older drivers. Costs include insurance, gasoline, maintenance and repairs, and license and registration fees.

Offer rides and visits. Volunteer to come by once a week or to provide rides on a regular basis for things like grocery shopping, library visits, or doctors’ appointments.

Seek their understanding of the situation. Some elderly drivers may be aware of their faltering ability, but be reluctant to give up driving completely. Another person’s concerns may force the senior driver to act. They may even feel relieved to have someone else help make the decision to stop driving.