NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION SENIOR DRIVER PROGRAM
Across the USA.
"Research shows that age is not the sole predictor of driving ability and safety. But there is ample evidence to show that most of us experience age-related declines in our physical and mental abilities – declines that can signal a greater crash risk."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes a useful guides on senior driver safety called: How to Understand and Influence Older Drivers
and Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully. The guides encourage older drivers to adapt to aging related changes and help loved ones to talk about a seniors’ driving before it can become dangerous including helpful tips on how to talk to a senior sensitively about their driving and a plan for alternate transportation.
The first step in knowing if it is time for a senior driver to hand over the keys requires loved ones, family and friends to observe the senior driving. Several people may need to observe the older person’s driving looking for the signs such as did the driver:
-Stop at all stop signs and looks both ways to check for cross traffic.
-Stop at red lights.
-Appropriately yield the right-of-way.
-Respond properly to other vehicles, motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and road hazards
merges, and change lanes safely.
-Stay in the lane when turning and driving straight.
-Slow or stop inappropriately such as at green lights or in intersections.
-Drive too fast for road conditions.
-Drive so slowly as to impede the safe flow of traffic.
-Get lost routinely on routes that should be familiar for the driver.
Non-driving observations to pay attention to are looking for signs of:
-Forgetfulness (frequent and combined with other signs).
-Unusual or excessive agitation.
-Confusion and disorientation.
-Loss of coordination and trouble with stiffness in joints.
-Trouble walking, swallowing, hearing, or following verbal instructions.
-Dizziness when changing positions, tripping, and falling.
-Shortness of breath and general fatigue.
-Difficulty following verbal instructions, and/or giving inappropriate responses to instructions.
After observing a loved ones driving a plan of action is required which may include taking a senior driver refresher course such as the AARP Senior Driver Course, or simply adjusting the senior’s car for a better fit through the AAA Car Fit Program. Seat adjustments, rear view mirror adjustments, pedal extenders or other adaptive devices are all simple solutions to help senior drivers feel more comfortable driving. If necessary alternate modes of transport may be need to be discussed to keep the senior independent and active.
Tips on how to talk to a senior driver about their driving include:
-Being sensitive in a way that preserves their self-respect.
-Reasoning and using compassion.
-Appreciating the amount of significance a driver’s license has to a senior.
-Empathize and listen.
-Pick someone in the family or a trusted friend who the older adult driver may listen to.
-In discussing concerns use 'I' messages rather than 'You' messages such as 'I am concerned about your safety when you are driving,' rather than, 'You’re no longer a safe driver.'
-Mention you have noticed changes that seem to be making it more difficult for the senior to drive.
-Reinforce that the senior is not alone and that thousands of other older adults are also changing how and when they drive such as no longer driving at night or avoiding rush-hour traffic or bad weather.
–By driving locally seniors can still do things that keep them active in their communities, such as volunteering and socializing.
-Don’t be put off by a negative reaction changes are never easy.
What are alternate forms of transportation for seniors when they can no longer drive?
-Buses, subway, public transit.
-Friends and family members providing a ride.
-A senior keeping their car and having others drive.
-Van pick-up scheduled from a senior center or group.
-Volunteer groups offering free rides to seniors.
Other tools offered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide an assesment for an older driver or on how to talk to senior drivers about their driving safety include:
-Adapting Motor Vehicles for Older Drivers – Evaluating senior’s needs, making sure their car 'fits' properly by installing and knowing how to use adaptive devices, and practicing good vehicle maintenance.
-Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully - How do you assess whether physical changes are affecting your driving skills.
-Family and Friends Concerned About an Older Driver - To provide families, friends, healthcare providers, law enforcement personnel, and community and social services with information to assist older adults whose capabilities make them potentially unsafe to drive.
-Safe Driving for Older Adults - Helpful tips about coping with these changes are also provided so that senior drivers can remain safe drivers for as long as possible.
-Driving Transition Education - Tools, scripts, and practice exercises to prepare professionals on how to have a conversation about senior driver safety and mobility with older adults, their families, and concerned community members.
source: nhtsa.gov/Senior-Drivers, mto.gov.on.ca
Elderly Driver and Senior Transportation
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