As a part of the aging process, many people experience physical or mental declines that render them unable to drive. The loss of independence that comes from an inability to be behind the wheel causes many seniors to hold out longer than they should when it comes to giving up the keys. This can result in car accidents, which endanger the senior and other motorists on the road.
It is important for the senior, doctors of elderly patients, and family members of older Americans to monitor for signs suggesting driving is no longer safe. When a senior cannot operate a vehicle in a responsible and safe manner because of health concerns, a plan should be put in place to mitigate the adverse impact of giving up the keys.
When Should a Senior Give Up The Ability to Drive?
Boston.com reports a new AAA study suggesting there may be consequences if a senior stops driving. More than 16 different reports were reviewed by the AAA Foundation for traffic safety. The Foundation concluded there is a correlation between a senior giving up driving and the senior suffering adverse health impacts.
A senior who has stopped driving fares worse in many important ways than his or her peers. A steep decline in cognitive function is more likely to occur in a senior who does not drive, and a senior who does not drive is more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression. A senior who has given up driving is also up to five times more likely to go into an assisted-living facility, and is less socially engaged and less likely to engage in outdoor activities or in activities occurring outside of the house.
AAA researchers were careful to indicate a correlation between giving up driving and a decline in health and happiness does not mean that giving up driving was the cause of the senior's decline. It is possible seniors who gave up driving were already experiencing more adverse health conditions and were more likely than their healthier peers to experience a dramatic drop-off in health and ability to live alone. Further research is recommended to determine if giving up driving specifically causes a senior to decline.
Regardless of the research, however, seniors still need to make sure they consider the health and safety of others on the road when deciding whether to drive. A senior who waits as long as possible because of concerns about the impact of no longer driving could end up waiting too long and causing a motor vehicle crash. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has reported seniors are the second-most likely demographic group to become involved in collisions; they are beat only by teenagers when it comes to causing car crashes.
By 2030, 20 percent of the U.S. population is going to be 65 or older compared with only 13 percent of the population in 2010. As the population ages, it is important to consider how to address the issue of helping seniors maintain independence while simultaneously ensuring people do not stay on the road too long.