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Senior Citizens Driving Safely: When to Hang up the Car Keys?

When it comes to vehicle fatality rates, many believe that teenagers are the highest risk group, but that is not the case. Actually, it is senior citizens, ages eighty and above that have the highest average fatality rate for vehicle crashes based on miles driven. Essentially, too many senior citizens tend to drive long after they should quit. This is a touchy subject for families and many have a hard time discerning when their elderly loved one is ready to hang up their car keys. But it is important not only for the safety of your loved one but also for anyone they might injure as well. It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your loved one so that when this time comes, you are both prepared. Below are a few helpful hints that will help you and your loved one know that it is time to hang up the car keys.

senior citizens drivingHealth Problems

As we get older, aging can take a toll. But once you reach a certain age (and that age is different for everyone), certain problems can occur including those that will affect driving capabilities. These problems include: Vision issues, slow reaction times, hearing loss and more. Despite the fact that the elderly have these issues, most states have yet to put any legislation in place to keep the elderly as well as other drivers safe.

Some states do have regular testing for those of a certain age, but most do not. It is up to us to keep a check on our elderly loved ones. Frequent hearing and eyesight tests are imperative to making sure that your loved one is ready and able to drive. If these tests fail, then it should be the proof you and your loved one needs to be able to hang up the car keys.

See For Yourself

It’s a good idea for you to take a drive with your elderly loved one on a regular basis. Go to the store or shopping one day with your loved one to see if any issue is present. It is best to have someone go along for the ride that the person will respect and listen to. If you do not get along well with person, such as a parent, then you may need someone who can help you broach the subject.

Be Direct, But Understanding

If you find that your loved one is having an issue with driving, be direct, but understanding. Explain the health issues at hand and tell your loved one that you understand the difficulties of turning in the keys. Let them know that you are here to help not hinder. Turning in the car keys means giving up some freedom and no one enjoys that. Your loved one will no longer be able to go about their day as they see fit. They will need assistance and this can be a hard transition.

Many times, with turning in the car keys, it can be time to move in with a family member or to an assisted living facility. Speak with your parent or loved one about all of these issues and show them how they will benefit from the changes going on in their life. Continue to be understanding and compassionate and hopefully they will understand why these changes must take place.

See Also:

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Smart Caregiver 2-Button Pager System


About the Author:

Sasha Wilson is a professional blogger and writes on tips to Find Assisted Living. Visit Assisted Living Today for more information on assisted living facilities for elders.


  1. Jim Plante says:

    Fatality rates among the elderly might be higher because they’re easier to kill. When’s the last time you heard a teenager cry out, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Old folks injure more easily. Bones are weaker, skin isn’t as flexible or tough, and blood vessels are more frail. An injury which might produce a nasty bruise on a 30-something might well be fatal to a 90-something.

    One other thing I’ve noticed is that “averages” of anything should be digested with a lot more salt than normal. When your source figured the “average” rate per mile, did s/he use the arithmetic mean (e.g., calculated like your grade-point average) or was the harmonic mean used? Should’ve been the latter.

    Although your premise is probably correct in general terms, the supporting evidence should be viewed with skepticism. We all know that elderly people become inattentive, distracted, and lose reaction time. My mother in law hung up her car keys after she’d run off the road once too often. She was in her early 70’s. But her sister continues to drive–safely–well into her 80’s. As you said, the termination point cannot be fixed, but must be performance-based.