While many people can drive safely throughout their later years, others may have to significantly curtail and even give up driving.
According to new research, older drivers, if they are having problems behind the wheel, prefer to hear from family members. But before broaching the subject or taking drastic action, family members need to take the time to observe firsthand their relative's driving behavior to see if skills have deteriorated.
"Get in the passenger seat, observe driving, get a bird's-eye view of your older driver not once, but a number of times. Look for a pattern of problems, not just an isolated incident like a minor fender bender," recommends older-driver expert Maureen Mohyde.
While minor issues may be overcome with changes in driving behavior or physical fitness, more serious behaviors may require immediate action.
Some minor warning signs to watch for include:
* Decrease in confidence while driving
* Incorrect signaling
* Scrapes or dents on the car or garage.
More serious indicators are:
* Failure to notice traffic signs
* Near misses
* Confusion at exits.
Warning signs that require immediate action by the family are:
* Confusing the gas and brake pedals
* Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason.
Mohyde advises families to observe their older driver over a period of time.
"The good news," she said, "is that older drivers are more willing to listen to those who have driven with them."
To help families determine if their loved one is still capable of driving, The Hartford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab have created a free 24-page guide called "We Need to Talk: Family Conversations with Older Drivers."
To order the guide, visit the Web site at www.thehartford.com/talk witholderdrivers.
Families must determine when a person's attention span or reaction time is making driving dangerous for the driver and others.