As most people are well aware, the population of elderly Americans is poised to explode over the next several years as more and more baby boomers continue their inexorable march toward age 65. In fact, statistics show that as soon as 2020, there will be upwards of 54 million Americans over age 65 here in the U.S.
While most of the discussion concerning this explosion in the population of elderly Americans focuses on important issues like Medicare and Social Security, it's also important to understand how this will affect our nation's roads.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, age-related conditions -- cognitive impairment, vision problems, etc. -- will play a major role in as much as 40 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents.
In light of figures like these, the question inevitably arises as to when and how a person should consider having a conversation with their elderly loved one about when it's time to reduce or even stop driving.
What are some of the risk factors that people can look for and possibly counteract concerning their elderly loved one?
According to experts, people will want to ensure that their elderly loved one doesn't suffer from any sort of vision problems, particularly those that can't be corrected with prescription eyeglasses.
Furthermore, they advise that people will want to be on the lookout for changes in physical functioning that could affect a loved one's driving skills. For instance, arthritis may prevent them from fully turning their head or lifting their shoulder, suggesting that some sort of therapeutic treatment is necessary.
Finally, experts urge people to monitor the medications of their elderly loved ones to ensure that they don't cause drowsiness, fatigue or other symptoms that could result in drowsy driving.
Are there any warning signs that people can look for to let them know that it may be time to finally have a conversation with their elderly loved one about driving?
While there is no set list of warning signs that will identify with 100 percent accuracy when it's time to have a conversation with their elderly loved one about limiting their driving, experts indicate that people can nevertheless look out for some of the following:
- Increased traffic citations (speeding, failing to stop at a red light, driving the wrong way, etc.)
- Increased fender benders or even more serious accidents
- Increased dents, dings and scratches in their car
- Elevated anxiety before, during or after driving
- Declining health (physical and mental)
- Confusion behind the wheel
- Substandard driving (going too slow, failing to use a signal, improper lane changes, etc.)
We'll continue to examine this important issue in our next post, including how to broach the sensitive issue of getting your loved one to drive less or hand over their keys.
Source: The Tennessee Department of Transportation, "Driver safety for Tennessee seniors: A resource for family members and caregivers," July 2014