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Is an older motorist in your household fit to drive?

As the senior citizen population grows in the United States, it’s an important time to address highway safety concerns related to some of your older loved ones. Getting older doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t drive, but it’s vital to identify any red flags over their habits and abilities.

The number of American drivers age 65 and older has increased by 32% over the past decade, and fatalities for this age group have risen by 30%. That led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to designate the week of Dec. 7 to Dec. 11 as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.

Spotting warning signs in older drivers

As of 2017, just under 51 million Americans were 65 or older. In 2018, this group accounted for 19% of all highway fatalities, with 6,907 deaths. The NHTSA offers guidance for family members to notice when an older loved one’s driving skills may be deteriorating. These signs include:

  • Getting lost on what should be familiar routes
  • A recent accident or a close-call
  • Advice from doctors over health conditions to stop or limit driving
  • Taking medication that may inhibit their reflexes or cognitive abilities
  • Getting a ticket for impaired driving
  • Driving too fast or too slow for no apparent reason
  • New dents or scratches in their vehicles

Handling a difficult discussion

If you notice even one of these red flags, it’s crucial to address your concerns. These conversations can be extremely difficult because many older folks equate driving with independence. But, deciding whether your loved one is fit to drive should never rest on age alone.

We all experience changes in our eyesight, physical abilities and reflexes as we get older. In many cases, seniors can adjust their driving habits, get regular vision exams and take senior driving courses to keep themselves and everyone else safe on the road.

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