ALTON — When a teen finally turns 16, many parents worry about their children driving safely while hoping they aren’t putting themselves or others at risk.
Driving courses and safety talks are a big part of a new driver’s life — to encourage them to be good drivers and instill confidence.
But with the focus on new drivers, some have started to question why there’s not as much emphasis on an older age group research has found to pose as much of a safety threat as new drivers. Home Instead Senior Care recently launched an online program that provides tips to make the conversation with an older adult about their driving ability a little easier, along with information on proactive planning, warning signs of unsafe drivers, medical conditions that may reduce a driver’s ability and more.
According to a survey by Home Instead Inc., 95 percent of older adults haven’t had the talk about their driving, which in some cases has led to the family wishing they had before it was too late. Obstacles, like the senses of independence and mobility that may be lost, can get in the way. But 31 percent of survey respondents said if family or friends were to recommend they make the transition from driving, they would reconsider.
“As adults, we don’t hesitate to talk to our teenage children about driving, but when we need to address concerns with our own parents, we drop the ball,” Elin Schold Davis, occupational therapist and project coordinator for the Older Driver Initiative of the American Occupational Therapy Association, stated in a press release. “We know that discussing driving with aging loved ones reduces their discomfort around limiting or stopping their driving. Often, families just need to know how to start the dialogue.”
The dialogue how-to’s are offered on the program’s website, LetsTalkAboutDriving.com, along with article and video resources that touch on the transition to retiring from driving, warning signs that seniors may want to stay off the road, suggestions, misconceptions and more.
If there is little to no worry about a senior loved one’s driving ability, Home Instead Senior Care still encourages residents to take advantage of the resources and take a proactive step in planning out the possible driving transition. Having a plan in place before a medical, physical or cognitive condition occurs makes it easier for everyone involved, and gives the senior a sense of closure there might not have been if driving difficulties had not been expected or talked about.
“We want to be able to still respect their independence and make sure that it’s handled before there’s a huge problem or accident,” Cindy Hill, community service representative from the Belleville chapter of Home Instead, said. “If people have the conversation a little earlier and have the senior loved one be a part of it, it helps everyone with knowing if they are comfortable with driving and everyone is on the same level.”
“The ability to drive gives seniors the freedom to do what they want, when they want — and we want to respect that independence,” Jim Griffith, franchise owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in St. Louis, stated in a press release. “Proactively talking about driving with seniors allows them to take an active role in deciding when and why their driving should be reduced or eliminated, while keeping families safe on the road.”
Home Instead Senior Care is the world’s leading provider of in-home care services for seniors that provides personalized care, support and education to help enhance the lives of aging adults and their families. The Home Instead Senior Care network provides services spanning from providing companionship and personal care to specialized Alzheimer’s care and hospice support. To get in touch with the Alton-Collinsville provider, call (618) 346-5008 or visit 100 Lanter Court 2 in Collinsville.
The Let’s Talk about Driving program is entirely online and free to ensure everyone can have full access to its educational resources.
- Mysterious dents. If an older adult can’t explain what happened to his or her car, or you notice multiple instances of damage, further investigation is needed to determine if there’s been a change in the senior’s driving abilities.
- Trouble turning to see when backing up. Aging may compromise mobility and affect movements needed to drive safely. Newer vehicles offer back-up cameras and assistive technology that can help older adults.
- Confusing the gas and brake pedals. Dementia can lead to a senior being confused about how his or her car operates.
- Increased irritation and agitation when driving. Poor health or chronic pain can trigger increased agitation that may, in turn, lead to poor judgment on the road.
- Bad calls on left-hand turns. Turning left can be tricky and dangerous for older drivers, and many crashes occur where there is an unprotected left turn (no turning arrow).
- Parking gone awry. Difficulty parking, including parallel parking, could cause damage to an older adult’s vehicle and to those around it.
- Difficulty staying within the lanes. If you’ve spotted a driver zigzagging along the road, it could be a sign fatigue or vision problems are making it difficult to stay on course.
- Delayed reaction and response time. Aging slows response times, which may create a situation where an older adult may cause an accident or be unable to respond quickly enough to prevent a crash.
- Driving the wrong speed. Driving too quickly or too slowly can be indicators a driver’s judgment is impaired.
- Riding the brake. Riding the brake could be a sign drivers no longer have confidence in their driving skills.