Driving in old age

Should they or shouldn’t they be driving? How do you know when to try and stop your parent from driving? Driving safely in old age is one of those very tricky subjects. There can be a reluctance from friends and family to approach the subject, especially if your parent is protective of their independence. However, hearing it from someone they trust helps.

Currently there is no legal age for when to stop driving, there is however a requirement for over 70’s to declare themselves safe to drive every three years. The DVLA must also be advised of any medical conditions that may affect their ability to drive safely, these could be previous health conditions that have worsened or new ones. The driver could be prosecuted following an accident if health issues were a contributing factor. Also, insurance may not provide cover.

A Government website and your parent’s GP have a full list of conditions that require the driver to contact the DVLA.  Or you can read the DVLA’s D100 Driving Licences booklet for more information.

Age alone is never reason enough to give something up or for getting help, but if your parent has shown some of the following signs, it may be a good time to talk to them about their driving:

  • Slower reaction times
  • Difficulty in turning to see when reversing
  • Keeping a foot on the brake
  • Other drivers sounding their horns at them
  • Incorrect signals
  • Hitting the kerb
  • Trouble making turns
  • Confusion at exits
  • Over-revving the engine, especially on low-speed manoeuvres
  • Difficulties with low-light or night-time driving
  • Avoidance of driving to new or unfamiliar places
  • Look out for scrapes and dents on the car

Get back on track with a lesson or two.  If your parent has been involved in an accident, or had to refrain from driving for a period of time due to ill health, a session with a qualified driving instructor for the older driver can give them a confidence boost. It will also be an opportunity to assess their driving ability and advise on whether they are safe, need some extra help or should consider giving up in the near future.

Consider where and when to drive.  Your parent may feel confident driving in familiar surroundings, however driving in unfamiliar areas may cause confusion and they may become nervous being out of their comfort area.  Parents can struggle with unknown, busier roads and potentially more aggressive driving.  Also, the older we get, the harder it is to see in the dark; many people avoid driving after sunset making journeys in the winter months a challenge.

If one of the care options for your parents is to move closer to you ,or into your home, you may need to be prepared to become their transport if they can’t cope with the change and that difficult conversation about their safety and hanging up the keys may have to be approached.

Hanging up the car keys and finding alternative ways of getting around.  Having to retire from driving can be a major milestone in an older person’s life but should not signal the end of a busy and fulfilling life or loss of independence. When a person does have to retire from driving, it’s worth investigating the alternatives. Is there a community transport scheme that will take your parent from door to door?