Canadians aged 65 years and older take more than 80 per cent of trips in their own vehicles. Most do so as safe, careful drivers, but some face challenges that should be considered warning signs to consider retiring from driving.
Being an older driver does not automatically make him or her a road hazard or problem for others, but as we age we should be aware of signs that warn us to be aware there could be a problem. As you get older, should you consider giving up driving? No one wants to give up that freedom and convenience, but it should be on the agenda for all drivers.
An Australian study of drivers aged 70 to 88 identified significant concerns including failure to do shoulder checks, veering across lanes, not using turn signals and braking suddenly without cause. Certain situations were particularly dangerous including lane merging, rights of way and intersections.
In fact, crashes per km driven do increase for those over 70. That could be because older people tend to drive within their communities where there are more intersections — where there is a higher risk of accident. One thing that is undisputable, however, is that older drivers suffer more injuries in crashes than other drivers.
To be a good driver at any age means having good vision, hearing and mobility, along with quick thinking. Many of these attributes are affected by aging. There is no set time for stopping driving, but there will be red flags suggesting it might be time to do so. Even so, the American Society on Aging reports that most people drive seven to 10 years longer than they should.
You should think of giving up driving if you are having accidents, even if they are only fender benders; if you have trouble staying in your lane, get lost even on roads you know. If you often have other drivers honking at you, that is another sign you should consider your driving.
Certain circumstances provide clearer signs to consider no longer driving. It’s likely time to consider retiring from driving if you have: been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or another dementia or have caused a crash, and if you have had others tell you they are concerned about your driving.
Sometimes we might be concerned about another driver who is being unsafe. It could be a family member or a friend and speaking to them directly has not worked, or is not possible. If you are concerned about an unsafe driver (of any age) you can make a report to the Office of Superintendent of Vehicles called an “Unsolicited Driver Fitness Report.”
The time will come when you must stop driving. You may have already started to limit your driving, a wise first step in a plan to stop driving. BCAA provides excellent information and tips for aging drivers to help with the process with their “Plan to Stop Driving.”
For someone who has chosen to stop driving there are always options. Many seniors find that the cost of operating and insuring a vehicle far exceeds even regular taxi service. Consider the options, and consider your safety and that of others on the road. Stopping driving might be the right step for you. Think about it.
Editor’s note: Dr. Paul Martiquet is the Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.