Magazine article Work & Family Life

Warning Signs of an Older Person's Driving Risk

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Warning Signs of an Older Person's Driving Risk

Article excerpt

Part Two of a two-part series

Last month we talked about the driving dilemma and how to begin a conversation with an older relative or friend who may need to give up driving.

We pointed out that age is not the determining risk factor. To drive safely, a person must be able to see, think and move well and with ease. If any of these abilities is limited, the individual should not be operating a motor vehicle.

States have different rules for renewing licenses and re-testing drivers. Check with the Motor Vehicle Bureau for the rules where your relative is licensed.

Look for warning signals

Three advocacy groups (AARP, AMA and AAA) have developed specific warning signals that I have categorized by risk level into red, yellow and green.

"Red" naturally points to the highest risk level, and a single red marker should signal the need to begin a conversation about driving with your older relative.

"Yellow" points to a lower but still significant risk. One yellow risk is a cause for concern. Two or more should prompt further assessment.

"Green" points to risks that can be corrected and, if they are corrected, can allow a person to continue to drive safely.

Red signals of risk

One or more car accidents in the past five years. A driver's recent history is a strong predictor of mishaps to come.

Recent traffic tickets or police warnings. Insurance companies raise their rates after a ticket or accident because such events also tend to predict future problems.

Severely impaired vision, cognition or mobility. Any of these problems can be dangerous for the driver and others on the road.

Yellow signals of risk

Recent near misses or close calls while driving. A near miss is not always the driver's fault, but it may be a symptom of declining performance.

Having people say they don't want to ride with the driver or they don't want their children to ride with him or her. Since people tend to be reluctant to speak up about their concerns for a person's driving, these expressions should be taken seriously.

Feeling stressed, exhausted or uncomfortable when driving. These suggest that a driver no longer feels fully competent behind the wheel.

Having other drivers honk, gesture or seem annoyed by the person's driving. These signs and gestures may be a clue that a person's driving is too slow, erratic or outside the norm in some other way.

Accumulation of dents and dings on the person's vehicle. Backing into things, scraping walls or other objects and minor fender-benders may indicate vision, mobility or navigational problems.

Difficulty judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps. …

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