Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

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While it’s true that we should be constantly vigilant about whether the older drivers in our lives are still safe on the road, it just so happens that this week is Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.

And frankly, it couldn’t come at a better time since many of us have had or are planning holiday visits with our parents and are facing tough conversations and decisions about their safety, independence and quality of life.

At Home Instead Senior Care serving Central Oregon, these are issues we see families deal with every month of the year, and here are some of the ways we recommend as being most successful when facing this dramatic change:

• Make a thorough and honest assessment. Even though people like to complain about older drivers, the truth is that some seniors maintain the presence of mind, quick reflexes and physical ability necessary for safe driving well into their advanced years. Don’t assume your senior has to give up driving completely just because of their age. According to a statistic on caregiverstress.com, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.auto crash deaths among drivers 70 and older fell 21 percent during the period 1997-2006, reversing an upward trend, even as the population of people 70 and older rose 10 percent.

Instead, ask yourself these questions:

• Does your senior feel less comfortable and more nervous or fearful while driving?

• Do they have difficulty staying in the lane of travel?

• Are there more frequent "close calls" or near crashes?

• Are there more dents and scrapes on their vehicle, and on fences, mailboxes, garage doors and curbs along their route?

• Do they have trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance or exit ramps?

• Do they have difficulty turning their head to check over their shoulder while backing up or changing lanes?

• Are they easily distracted or do they have trouble concentrating while driving?

• Are they getting lost more often?

Even if a senior may have to stop driving at night, in inclement weather or during heavy traffic times, there is still a chance that they can keep the keys for daytime errands. If you are not sure whether you or your senior have the ability to assess their physical fitness to drive, ask an occupational therapist to perform an evaluation for you. You can find local contacts for that here.

• Approach With Caution. Taking the keys away from a reckless teenager is different from taking them away from a parent who may have been driving responsibly for sixty some years. If you’re at a point when you have to ask your senior to stop driving, try to frame the conversation in a way that does not make them feel defensive or helpless. Be firm, but deferential. Many people find it effective to use only “I” statements (i.e. “I don’t know what I would do if anything ever happened to you.


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