Driving a vehicle is an integral part of American life. But aging can bring changes in vision and response times on the road and health conditions and medications can impact the ability to drive. When it appears that driving is becoming more challenging, it may be time to explore next steps and other transportation options to protect the safety and wellbeing of the driver and others on the road.
Talk about driving abilities and transportation options
Start by having a candid conversation about your concerns about you or your loved one’s driving abilities as well as about alternative transportation options. If someone stops driving, it’s important to figure out ahead of time transportation needs for errands, appointments and recreational activities. Being kind, calm and empathetic during these discussions is beneficial to everyone involved.
Observe and evaluate driving skills
A passenger riding along with a driver can assess driving abilities. While such a ride-along is not a test, it is a way to help figure out if someone is having challenges with driving. According to the AARP, signs to look for include:
Being easily distracted.
Having a delayed response to unexpected situations.
Running lights or stop signs.
Clipping the curb.
Exhibiting lane drifting or having trouble changing lanes.
Showing a loss of driving confidence
Getting lost in familiar places.
Driving too fast or too slow.
Having trouble moving the foot from the gas to the brake or confusing the two.
Being pulled over by the police, having dents and scrapes on the vehicle and being involved with accidents – including fender-benders – also indicate that it may be appropriate to evaluate whether or not to drive.
Broaching the subject of ceasing to drive
Because driving is often equated with independence, having a conversation about no longer driving can be a sensitive one. Approach such a conversation with respect, directness and a focus on safety, including those of passengers, pedestrians and other drivers.
Participating in a formal driving assessment performed by a professional who is not a family member can be useful, as can meeting with a family physician who may be able to evaluate how health conditions and medications may be impacting driving ability.
Arrange alternative transportation
In the event that you or a loved one stops driving, discuss transportation needs and set up alternatives. Family members and friends can create driving schedules and take turns providing regular transportation. Private ride services such as cab companies, Uber and Lyft may be useful as may be public transportation options.
By having alternate transportation plans in place, you or your loved one can continue to live independently without the worry that can come with driving challenges. And while giving up driving is a transition, ceasing to drive does not have to mean disengaging from socializing, running errands or being active in the community.