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Talking with Older Drivers: Is it Time to Put On the Brakes?

With winter weather rapidly approaching, unsafe road conditions become more of a reality. These road conditions affect all of us who drive, but they have a particularly significant impact on elderly drivers.

Many Americans have expressed concern about the safety of a loved one, due to the growing number of older drivers and today’s driving complexities. These decisions about driving are difficult for older Americans to make on their own.

This guide is to help bring about the conversation and assist you when the time is right to discuss the safety of your elderly relative, loved one or friend. More information is available at your state’s department of motor vehicle office or website.


What can I, as a family member or friend, do if I am concerned about the driving ability and safety of someone older who continues to drive?

First, recognize that driving is very important as it is our primary means of getting around. Second, if there are other family members or friends available, talk with them to see if they have made some of the same observations and discuss how you may be able to help the driver.


What can family members and friends do when a driver continues to drive against the advice of doctors and others?

It is best to maintain a sense of trust in your relationship, being honest and persistent. Encourage the person to make a decision to reduce or stop driving as appropriate. Be aware that people who lose the privilege of driving often feel lonely or anxious because they have fewer opportunities to be with friends or involved in activities. If the person will not listen to reason, you may want to discuss the problem with his or her doctor to find out if there are any medical issues that should be reported.


If an older driver stops driving, what alternative means are available?

Flagstaff has a tremendous bus system that provides access to a large majority of the city. The bus system also has competitive pricing with discounts for seniors (60+) as well as for disabled/Medicare recipients. Be sensitive to the older person’s feelings. Expect some emotional reactions, and do what you can to help them through this trying time.


Warning Signs

Reaction time is one of the most crucial functions to safe driving. This slows with age, but increasing distance between other cars and objects may help some older drivers.



Good vision is essential to safe driving. An older person may notice di­fficulties focusing on objects and switching focus from near to far. The ability to see fine detail may diminish. Peripheral vision may also change with age. This is significant, because about 98 percent of what we see when we drive is seen first peripherally. Driving at night may become more diffi­cult because of clarity in sight issues. As we get older, we need more light to see clearly. Approaching headlight glare may make it harder to adjust.



Some hearing loss is common among people age 65 and older. High pitched sounds — such as horns, sirens and train whistles — may become less audible long before low pitched ones do. Studies show people who have hearing di­fficulties are more likely to be inattentive to their surroundings. Family members and friends who suspect an older person doesn’t hear well should recommend a hearing exam and offer to go with the older person to get one.


Again, driving is a major form of independence, and your loved ones may be reluctant to relinquish that privilege. Communication of your concern for their safety and the safety of others is a safe bet for starting the conversation. Taking things slow and being genuine will often initiate progress and enable steps in the right direction.

Visiting Angels of Flagstaff is the leader in dementia and Alzheimer’s specialized care serving Flagstaff, Williams, Winslow, Payson and Show Low. For more information regarding home care and living assistance services, visit visitingangels.com/flagstaff.

You can also contact the director of the Flagstaff office, Jordan Fox, at jfox@visitingangels.com or call the office at 928-220-4100. The office is located at 718 N. Humphreys St. Ste. 201, Flagstaff, AZ 86001. FBN

 By Jordan Fox

2 Responses to Talking with Older Drivers: Is it Time to Put On the Brakes?

  1. Matt Gurwell December 30, 2017 at 1:31 PM #

    Great Article, Jordan!

    May I add that Keeping Us Safe is a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families. Our programs are designed to help older drivers with diminished driving skills make a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat without deterioration to their dignity, personal pride or independence.

    Our programs provide families with the missing link between their desire to bring this issue to a peaceful resolution, and their ability to actually do so.

    “Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers and their families” serves as the foundation for the “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program. It is a ‘working’ workbook, designed to remove the family’s opinion, emotion and speculation from the challenging process of deciding whether or not a loved-one should continue or if, in the interest of safety, they need to retire from driving.

    We also offer our Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals who have been specifically trained and certified in Keeping Us Safe’s “Enhanced Self-Assessment Program” for older drivers. With the 3-hour (in-person) self-assessment program, families benefit from a third-party, impartial intervention in resolving this very delicate and sensitive issue with their loved-one.

    Lastly, our Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals offer the following presentations to the public:

    1) A Safe Drive Through the Aging Process (meant for older drivers themselves), and
    2) Adults with Aging Parent Drivers

    Each of these 1-hour presentations are typically offered at no charge.

    Keeping Us Safe’s “self-assessment program” for older drivers has become a respected resource for physicians, hospital systems, and court systems looking for help for older drivers and their concerned families. Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals can be found throughout the United States.

    Our programs are designed to save lives while helping to ease the burden of the family as they find themselves faced with this very challenging issue.

    For more information on our workbook, our self-assessment program for older drivers, to schedule a presentation for your business or organization, or to learn more about becoming one of the Nation’s Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals, visit Keeping Us Safe at https://www.keepingussafe.org or call us at 877-907-8841.

  2. Deaf Deaf December 31, 2017 at 9:25 AM #

    Hearing loss has nothing to do with the cause of inattentive approach! All driving skills are almost 100% dependent on the visual concept. 16 million people with hearing loss (ranging from Hard of Hearing to Profoundly Deaf) are driving fine! Also, when you have the radio on and loud, you may not be able to hear any alert outside!

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