Is your older driver safe on the road? Here are some ways to help figure it out

Have you talked to your elderly relative, friend or neighbor about their safety on the road?

If you have had that discussion, you might be in the minority, AAA Tidewater Virginia says.

According to AAA statistics, only 17 percent of older drivers over the age of 65 have spoken with a family member or physician about their driving safety and capabilities.

Of the families who have had conversations about senior driving safety, 15 percent did so after a traffic or infraction.

The most common reasons for having the discussion including driving safety concerns such as falling asleep at the wheel or having trouble staying in the lane, health issues, a driving infraction or crash and planning for the future.

“Due to their fragility, older drivers are at greater risk of death and injury if involved in a crash,” AAA Tidewater said.

To be proactive, instead of reactive, AAA suggests families start talking to their senior drivers before an accident happens.

In 2016, more than 200,000 drivers 65 years old and older were injured in a traffic crash. More than 3,500 were killed, AAA said.

On average, seniors “outlive” their ability to drive safely by seven to 10 years.

“The right time to stop driving varies for everyone,” said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety. “This research shows that older drivers can be hesitant to initiate conversations about their driving capabilities, so it is important that families encourage them to talk early and often about their future behind the wheel. With early discussion and proper planning, elderly drivers may extend their time on the road.”

Here are some tips from AAA for talking to older drivers:

  • Start talking early and often about how to keep drivers safe behind the wheel. Include discussions about alternative transportation options.
  • Avoid generalizing and don’t jump to conclusions about a certain driver’s skills.
  • Don’t invite the whole family into the conversation. Keep the discussion between you and the older driver.
  • Focus on information you know, like a medical condition or other factors that might make driving unsafe. Don’t accuse an older driver of being unsafe.
  • Make a plan with the older driver for their driving safety and allow them to participate in the planning.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.