Road safety: When it’s unsafe for an older person to be driving

Some older adults can drive safely in their 80s and even early 90s. But road safety and individual safety is impacted when seniors begin to develop hearing, vision and physical limitations. Driving competence is more than just being able to control a car physically. Safe driving requires a combination of physical and cognitive ability and driving skills, and proper driving conduct.

As we advance in age, natural changes happen in our minds and bodies, and these changes might restrict or prevent us from driving. Some European countries require that drivers over 70 years of age prove their fitness every three years, however in South Africa there is currently no legislation preventing older people from driving.

Witnessing a loved one's driving and watching for warning signs of risky driving is an important first step in deciding whether it's time to talk to them about surrendering their keys and driving license.

  Some risks and signs that it is too dangerous for an older adult to be driving include:

  • Getting lost even on routes they travel often. This might happen as a result of mental exhaustion and disorientation.
  • Not coming to a complete stop at stop signs or red lights. Recognising stop signs and traffic lights might be challenging if road awareness is a challenge.
  • When it becomes difficult to judge distance, a collision is more likely.
  • Being unable to stay in their lane. Swerving or drifting into another lane is risky.
  • Driving too quickly or too slowly.  This might indicate an inability to keep track of the speed limit signs or maintain adequate vehicle control.
  • Collisions, vehicle damage, or increased traffic violations.

If you notice that your loved one is exhibiting some of these warning signals, it's essential to talk to them, keeping in mind that this might be a complicated and stressful topic. How can you approach the idea of halting or limiting them from driving sensitively and having a constructive conversation?

Below are some tips for having a successful discussion:

  1. Schedule a one-on-one conversation. Including too many people can result in chaos and tension. Instead, select one person who you believe will be receptive to hearing and assisting the senior driver in choosing the best course of action.
  2. Concentrate on road safety. The primary focus of the talk is driving safely and avoiding a collision that might result in injury or death. Remembering that safety comes first will help the parties involved avoid any downsides that may arise throughout the chat.
  3. Discuss self-reliance/ independence. Surrendering a license may appear to be a loss of independence. Discuss alternate transportation choices that will allow the senior driver to keep some amount of personal independence.
  4. Demonstrate your support. Before making a choice, it's critical to demonstrate compassion for your loved one. Listening to the person and being empathetic to their problems can assist you in finding an effective solution.

Road safety and car insurance for the elderly

Remember that insurance has evolved significantly in recent years. Many insurance offerings now include lower premiums for people who drive less frequently. This insurance package might make sense for an elderly person who doesn’t drive too often, since most older people also tend to choose to take their drives outside of rush hour. MotorHappy agents are on hand to source a collection of quotes from some of South Africa’s top insurers – click here to get started.

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