Seniors may be aware they are getting to the point when they can no longer safely drive. However, many people are reluctant to give up the freedom and independence driving can provide. Studies suggest there are significant consequences for an elderly person who can no longer drive. Family members must ensure they take steps to try to mitigate these consequences for their loved ones. Seniors who do not stop driving soon enough create a significant car accident risk on the road. But the health and happiness of the elderly also must be considered when making the decision to stop driving.
Seniors Face a Difficult Choice When it Comes to Preventing Car Accidents
It is unquestionably important for seniors to stop driving before they become physically or mentally incapable of driving safely. The aging process often causes a decline in many people's cognitive abilities. Many seniors begin to suffer from impaired vision and impaired hearing. Older people are also not as quick to react and develop slower reflexes. All of this means they are often unsafe drivers who lack the physical and mental skills needed to drive safely.
Many seniors drive for too long, even when the natural effects of aging have begun to have an adverse impact. This explains why the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has reported that seniors 65 and older are the demographic group with the second highest crash rate after teenagers. Family members need to make sure seniors can safely drive and make split-second decisions behind the wheel. Otherwise, family members may want to intervene and stop seniors from driving before they cause a serious or fatal car accident.
Unfortunately, there are real consequences if a senior stops driving. Boston.com reports on an AAA review of 16 different papers looking at the correlation between a senior's health and a senior's decision to stop driving.
Seniors who give up driving are five times more likely than people who are the same age to end up in an assisted-living facility. Seniors who no longer driver are also not as socially-engaged as their mobile peers, suffer from higher rates of depression, are less likely to do outdoor activities or other physical activities. They also experience other adverse health consequences, including a more rapid cognitive decline.
It is unclear if the decision to stop driving is the cause of these adverse consequences or if seniors stop driving because they have experienced declines already in the physical or mental abilities. More study is needed to determine if seniors more likely to experience these issues are the same ones that are more likely to stop driving.
While there may be consequences to seniors who give up the right to drive, everyone's lives are put at risk on the road when seniors wait too long to stop driving. Family members of elderly individuals should monitor their loved ones closely and medical professionals should be involved in the decision of when or if a senior should stop driving. Family members should also help seniors who have stopped driving by creating a plan for them to remain mobile and engaged even if they are no longer able to safely operate a motor vehicle.