ELDERLY DRIVERS

Driving is important in maintaining the independence, social activities, and self-satisfaction of the elderly. Research showed that individuals who stopped driving or have their licenses suspended due to safety concerns by the department of motor vehicles (DMV) have a higher tendency of facing isolation, withdrawal from social activities, depression, and social impairment (Gilhotra et al, 2001). Driving is defined as “sending, expel, force to move, to force in or down, make a penetration, to cause and guide the movement of a vehicle, or to convey in a vehicle.” (Random House Webster’s Dictionary, 1995, p.160).

       We often hear in the media about elderly drivers crashing into people or into buildings. Younger drivers are not isolated form this incidence, however, older drivers have a higher number of crashes per mile driven, and if injured are more likely to sustain serious injury or death. ( Gilhotra et al, 2001). Several research studies have been carried out on elderly driving in relationship to the medical, psychological, sociological and economic point of view. Elderly driving remains an area of interest with the fast growth of baby boomers in the U. S. Children of elderly active parents are often concerned about how long their parents continue to drive.

      There are 38 million licensed drivers aged 65 years and over in the United States. Older adults are faced with environmental problems on the road such as narrow streets, parking lots, and small traffic signs making it difficult to navigate (Larson, 1996b). Focus, reliability, and safety are a major concern for the elderly driver. Good physical and mental health are necessary for making judgment when behind the wheels, the elderly driver should exhibit strong capabilities of reliability when operating a motor vehicle (Novotny & Bouchner, 2011). It is good to know that the elderly drivers are experienced and can prevent certain accidents from happening of there is no impairment on their physical or psychological health.

Factors that can Affect Driving in the Elderly

  • Dementia
  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Head Injuries
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Medications Use
  • Visual loss
  • Hearing loss

Most elderly drivers with one or more of the above mentioned conditions would feel uncomfortable driving. Some medications can impair the sensory perception of an individual. An issue that can also impair sensory perception is alcohol consumption, mostly seen in socially active seniors. People should follow their conviction of inability to drive safely on the road. Children of the elderly drivers are often worried about their parent’s driving when cognitive or psychomotor deficits are obviously noticed. Individuals who are on multiple medications should also be careful on driving because of drug interactions leading to light headedness or dizziness.

What to do when you are Concerned about a Senior Driver

  1. Begin by taking gently with the senior, pointing out reasons why you are concerned about their driving and offering alternative means of transportation.
  2. Bring up your concerns to the senior’s physician, who can assist with medical assessments and the appropriate level of intervention.
  3. In urgent cases, physically removing the keys or the vehicle maybe necessary. Alternatives must be provided to ensure the senior can still get to appointments and run errands (State Farm Insurance, 2012).

The family or individual may ask for assistance with caregivers, friends, or family members to drive them to places. Some public transportation (ACCESS) is specifically designed to assist individuals who can no longer drive themselves. As much as taking an elderly person’s license can be frustrating for them, the risks involved are numerous both to the drivers and others on the road.

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