How do you know when it is time to hang up the car keys for good or to encourage a senior you love to do so?
For most of us, driving represents personal freedom. It is what allows us to maintain our independence. And, as we grow older, giving up driving can wound our pride and make us feel old.
For adult children, an aging parent’s safety behind the wheel can be a source of constant concern. While no one wants to ask a senior loved one to give up driving, it sometimes becomes necessary. One challenge families face is that it can be difficult to determine how safe an older family member is behind the wheel of a car.
Driving Fitness and Older Adults
Because everyone ages differently, it isn’t reasonable to make age the only factor to consider in determining a senior’s fitness for driving. While there are some undeniable changes that happen as we grow older, such as slower reflexes and diminished flexibility, requiring an older adult to hang up the keys when they reach a pre-determined birthday isn’t the answer.
The good news is there are other resources you can use to more objectively assess your personal driving skills or those of a senior loved one:
- AAA Senior Driving: A 30-minute interactive test developed by AAA is one option to consider. Interactive Driving Evaluation is a free online assessment designed for mature drivers. It evaluates a driver’s abilities in eight key areas.
- Mature Driver Resources: The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence also has a variety of free guides and tools you can download to use to assess your driving skills or your family members’.
- Occupational Therapist Assessment: Another option to consider is to employ the services of an occupational therapist. He or she can conduct an in-office assessment, as well as a ride along to evaluate an older adult’s driving skills.
Older Driver Laws in the State of Washington
The state of Washington has no age limit on driving. But they have measures designed to detect problems:
- Every other renewal must be done in person. At this time, a vision test will be administered. If vision loss is contributing to an older loved one’s safety behind the wheel, this test will reveal that.
- When residents renew a driver’s license in Washington, they will be asked a series of health questions. If the answers to any of these questions raise a red flag, a medical examination may be required.
Family members, physicians and local police can request a driver undergo a DOL re-examination at any time. This will entail a written test, an interview, a vision exam and a driving test.
This reexamination can determine if an older driver needs to turn in their license or place restrictions on when they can drive. These often include limiting driving to daylight hours and prohibiting rush hour driving.