Ways to address driving issues with different probable causes
Solutions to address driving problems that might have different probable causes include:
Getting professional help
Sometimes the reasons for driving problems aren't clear. A driver might run through a stop sign because they:
Did not see it
Have trouble reacting quickly
Have trouble reaching or pushing down the brake pedal
Are easily distracted or confused while driving
Collect as much information as you can to share with the older adult's health professionals, including:
When did you first notice problems with the older adult's driving?
Has the older adult noticed changes with driving?
What does the older adult say about the driving problems you've noticed?
Are there certain times, locations or conditions that make driving especially challenging for the older adult?
Does the older adult's driving seem to be getting worse?
Is the older adult able to take medications properly and follow other healthcare directions?
Does the older adult have difficulty with other daily activities?
Only health professionals can determine what's causing the older adult's driving to change.
The health reasons for driving problems might be treatable or reversible. For example, adjusting medications or correcting vision problems can make driving safe. Taking driving courses, changing driving habits or making adjustments to the car also help.
Getting professional help
The information you collect can help health professionals identify, treat and manage the health causes of the older adult's driving problems. If you're not sure who to contact, ask the older adult's primary care provider.
Tell health professionals about any driving concerns and ask questions during appointments. Ask if any new medications, diagnoses or treatments might affect driving.
For example, conditions that affect vision, muscle strength, mobility or nerve function can affect driving.
Make sure that the older adult gets thorough physical and eye exams every year.
Ask a pharmacist or other health professional to review all the older adult's medications. Ask if any might affect driving. Sometimes, changing or reducing medications can help make driving safer.
For a thorough medication review:
Bring all of the older adult's medications, prescription and over-the-counter
Discuss when and how the older adult takes each medication
Ask the health professional what each medication is for
Ask the health professional what side effects each medication might have
Ask if the older adult has side effects, difficulty swallowing pills or taking medications as directed, or any other medication problems
Confusion or problems with judgment or memory can be caused by medications, lack of sleep, treatable health issues or serious health conditions.
If the older adult has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia, the older adult will need to stop driving at some point. Discuss driving "retirement" with the older adult, as early as possible. Including health professionals, social workers or others who the older adult trusts might make conversations easier.
Ask if the older adult would like to have a professional driving assessment by an occupational therapist. The therapist can help determine if it is safe for the older adult to drive, and if so, suggest ways to make driving safer and more comfortable.
Once the health causes of the older adult's driving problems are identified, you can explore whether changes might improve driving safety.
Changes that can help include:
Adjusting the car seat, seatbelt and mirrors so that the older adult's vehicle is more comfortable and safe for them to drive
Taking a defensive driving class to help the older adult refresh skills and develop strategies for age-related changes that can affect driving
Changing when, where and how the older adult drives, for example by only driving during daylight hours or on familiar roads
Increasing the older adult's use of transportation alternatives, such as public transit, volunteer driver or rideshare programs, or getting rides from friends or family