When is it Time to Give Up the Keys

Time to Give Up the KeysIf you have older parents, or are approaching old age yourself, one thought on your mind might be when it's time to stop driving. It's a valid concern.

Ten years ago, a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that older drivers tend to be involved in more car accidents than their younger (but not teenaged) counterparts, and they projected that senior drivers would become a serious driving hazard.

Fortunately, the IIHS projection was wrong. Seniors are holding onto their licenses a lot longer than they once did, but despite the fact that there are 20 million drivers over the age of seventy on American roads, the rates of fatal car accidents and less serious car crashes both declined between 1997 and 2008.

Nevertheless, there will come a time when giving up the keys is a good idea. AARP (the American Association for Retired People) lists three key signs that could mean your mom or dad (or you) should stop driving. They are:

  1. Traffic tickets
  2. Minor dents and scrapes on the car
  3. Frequent near-misses of collisions

All three of these things may mean that the person driving is losing their ability to maintain control of their vehicle, but there are other signs as well, which are more personal though they're also less obvious. These include:

  1. Vision impairment that makes it difficult to read the speedometer, follow street signs, keep up with the flow of traffic at intersections, discern pedestrians, or drive at night.
  2. Side effects from prescription drugs that cause blurry vision, confusion, drowsiness or tremors in the hands and feet.
  3. Hearing loss that makes it difficult or impossible to discern and respond to noises like sirens, car horns, and screeching tires.
  4. Arthritis pain and/or stiffness that makes it difficult or impossible to look over your shoulder when backing up or changing lanes.

At the moment, there is no "magic age" for giving up the keys - the decision rests with each individual, but if any of these signs seem familiar, either alone or in combination, it may be time to speak with your parents (or consider for yourself) about putting their driving days behind them, for their safety, as well as that of everyone else on the road.