More aging men and women in America means more elderly drivers on the road. It won't be long before one in every four drivers in the country is over the age of 65.
With the increase in older drivers comes safety issues. Dr. Elizabeth Dugan answers many of the questions older drivers and their loved ones have about the effects of age, medical conditions and medications on driving in her new book, "The Driving Dilemma."
Assessing Fitness to Drive
Your aunt is 86 and has just returned from a care facility where she had stayed to recover from a fall. She walks very slowly and has diffi culty with stairs, but she insists she is a safe driver and hasn't had any kind of traffi c accident in more than 20 years. Still, you wonder, should she be driving?
Your father is 72 and is in relatively good health, but while driving with you recently on the highway, he strayed to the left-hand shoulder, then overcorrected with a sudden jerk of the wheel. This left you frightened and him defensively arguing that it wasn't a big deal. Is he at risk?
Your mother is 75 and you've noticed that in the past couple of years she has been repeating herself -- sometimes telling you the same story twice in a conversation. You notice some dings on the bumpers of her car, and a scratch on the right side. When you ask her about them, she seems surprised and says they must be from other people bumping into her car while it was parked at the grocery store. Should you be worried about her driving?
These very common situations all confront you with a similar challenge: How do you know if an older adult is fi t to drive? Since age alone is not a reliable indicator, what should you be looking for? And, if you are an older driver, what should you be looking for in your own driving habits that might signal a need for some kind of change?
This chapter describes the most common warning signs of driving risk and gives you some tools to assess whether a real driving problem exists. Specifi cally, I explain what the indicators of driving fi tness are, what signals a problem, how to categorize the severity of problems, how to conduct a home assessment, and what's involved in a professional assessment. Appendix 1 includes assessment forms that can be used either by an older driver for self-assessment or by a family member or friend. Appendix 2 contains forms to help you to implement changes by talking with your physician about specifi c functional concerns related to driving that may need some medical intervention.