Gary's Guidance: To Drive or Not to Drive

May 2015

One of the most difficult things to lose is no longer being able to drive a car.  Older adults often hear something like this:  “I don’t want you driving anymore because it is too dangerous” or “because of you’re getting lost, it is time to stop driving.”  In 2012, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found:  15 older adults killed and 586 injured in crashes on average every day.  Senior citizens are more at risk for fatal crash rates starting at ages 70-74 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older.

Some of the factors contributing to why seniors do not stop driving are:

  1. Threat of loss of independence
  2. Denial, lack of judgment, and not able to reason
  3. Do not want to burden or inconvenience others
  4. Decreased social opportunities
  5. Protect oneself from being judged as not able
  6. Unfamiliar with use of public transportation/not having access to public transportation

Who is involved in making decisions not to drive:

  1. Self
  2. Spouse or adult children
  3. Physician
  4. State Department of Motor Vehicles
  5. 3rd party such as a licensed occupational therapist certified in driving evaluations

Physical and cognitive health directly affects one’s ability to drive:

  1. Physical: vision, strength/endurance, flexibility, agility, medical diagnoses and medications
  2. Cognitive: memory, judgment, proactive or reactive adjustment (quick thinking)
  3. Reasoning, especially an ability to recognize deterioration in driving skills and ability to accept feedback

In the next edition of Gary’s Guidance suggestions are offered on what to do to promote safe driving and how to stop an older adult from driving.

Gary Kozick, LCSW