Older Drivers on Our Roads: Denial in the Face of an Aging Danger

aged drivers

It seems like a page out of an ageism how-to manual, yet getting aged drivers off the road has more to do with the safety and benefit of all and less to do with a person’s age or ‘senior’ age bracket.  As a person ages, they have trouble with reflexes, hearing, eyesight, and more.  While slower reflexes and poor eyesight poses a threat to the well being of elders, seniors who are behind the wheel put themselves and others at risk.

Independence

Many older drivers are not on the roads to prove they’re still young.  Most are on the road because they don’t have a choice when it comes to going to doctors’ appointments, the grocery store, and completing chores.  Some are widows who don’t live with family members who could otherwise do chores for them or drive them to destinations.   People view driving as a mark of independence.  For many elders, a driver’s license is not a key to independence but an integral means of survival.

Alternatives

The above paragraph could make a convincing argument on behalf of an elder who does not have alternatives.  An elder can be widowed, live away from family members, and have mobility problems which makes it impossible to take public transportation.  However, today, many alternatives exist such as community transport, car sharing, scooter, and motorised wheelchairs.

Reality

‘Taking’ a person’s license seems like a wicked sentiment.  However, it’s not (emotionally) easy for an elder to willingly surrender their license (and symbol of their independence).  But reality shows that elders have physical limitations regarding eyesight, reflexes, and limited ability to operate a vehicle due the side effects of regular medication.  Poor eyesight is estimated to be the largest cause of health-related crashes, accounting for more than 2,900 fatalities per year.

Transition

Unfortunately, older people being behind the wheel is an issue, one isn’t being resolved by elders alone.  Elders can be stubborn and reckless.  For example, some may think it’s okay to have a drink and then get behind the wheel.  If you’re injured in a drinking and driving accident, seek a lawyer with a no win no fee claims rule; if they don’t win your case, you don’t have to pay for services.  Friends and family members can make an impact on decision making and help seniors make a happy and safe transition.  For example, family members can start to offer to provide rides once or twice per week as they introduce other means of transportation.  Steer an elder’s attention to a bus or train schedule; teach them to schedule a ride via the web; or, enlist the help of a counsellor.

Tools

In addition to showing them how find and reserve alternative means of transportation, help elders stay connected to the outside world.  Some seniors want to maintain their license because they feel they won’t be able to see family and friends without it.  However, Skype or FaceTime are ways to ‘see’ and keep in contact with family without leaving the house.  Technological tools can help bridge the gap between reduced independence and the outside world.

Georgina McDonald has a background in writing and journalism, but now a Mom of 3 young kids is mostly in Mommy Mode these days. She enjoys writing articles when she gets a chance, focusing on topics in the news which spark her interest.

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