Challenging road conditions brought about by winter weather add to the concern.
For family members and caregivers, identifying early warning signs can be as easy as taking a ride with a senior driver.
According to Dave Melton, director of Transportation Technical Consulting Services at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety in Hopkinton, Mass., extended family time over the holidays is an opportunity to observe their driving skills and watch for warning signs that may include the following:
• Close calls with other vehicles or stationary objects such as garages or curbs
• Lane drifting
• Trouble reading signs and staying focused
• Missing exits or turns
• Failing to use signals
• New dents or scrapes
In addition, Melton encourages families to explore safe, alternative transportation solutions in the community; encourage loved ones to avoid driving at night, during rush hour and inclement weather; and promote driving evaluations that test visual and hearing capacities.
When the time is right to begin the discussion, Melton recommends respectfully asking a loved one how he or she feels when driving and urges family members to listen to concerns and respond with patience and kindness.
"The transition from driving is a long and gradual process," said Katherine Freund, founder and president of ITNAmerica, the first and only national nonprofit transportation system for the country's aging population. "It's best to think of the discussion with a loved one as a supportive, gradual process rather than a confrontation. The new Liberty Mutual Web site is a great way for families and caregivers to become comfortable with that process."
While many families will gladly provide transportation for aging family members, geographic distance, work schedules and time commitments often make giving rides on a regular basis a challenge. That is why ITNAmerica created a community-based transportation solution that provides alternative senior transportation for any need, any time.
Offering services in private automobiles 24 hours, seven days a week, the system allows seniors to stay active and involved in their communities by driving them to and from classes, group gatherings, doctors appointments, grocery shopping, visits to the salon, and even dates.
"Driving has always been a symbol of independence," adds Freund. "Many seniors feel that their cars are the only way to remain engaged and active in their communities. There are alternatives that allow them to maintain that level of activity without sacrificing their safety."
Families and caregivers who wish to learn more about safe driving for seniors, including tips for identifying driving abilities and how to have the conversation about transitioning to the passenger seat, can visit www.libertymutual.com/seniordriving.