The natural aging process brings about physical and emotional changes in all people. While these changes are usually gradual and vary from individual to individual, some may be intensified due to illnesses or accidents. The aging process and/or a disability may result in:
- Reduced muscular abilities and diminished endurance
- Impairment of vision (sensitivity to glare, diminished depth perception, color perception)
- Hearing loss, starting with high frequencies
- Loss of balance and stability
- Difficulty navigating and orienting oneself to their surroundings
- Impaired judgment, delayed reactions, and slower to interpret rapid changes in the environment
- Increased fears related to personal safety (e.g., fear of falling, crime, etc.)
As a result of declining abilities, operating a motor vehicle will present difficulties as people age. The onset of unsafe driving that requires strict limitations or denial of driving privileges cannot be set by age, as it will vary from person to person. Yet, it is a concern of all, particularly family, loved ones, and close friends of an older adult.
For the record, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) can deny driving privileges to anyone when the bureau has good cause to believe that a licensed driver is incompetent; or otherwise not qualified to be licensed.
The bureau may conduct a reasonable investigation of the driver’s continued fitness to operate safely a motor vehicle, including requesting medical information from the driver or the driver’s health care sources. Of note, anyone can submit a written letter of concern to the BMV about someone’s driving ability. The BMV will then take appropriate action.
CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions is an advocate of enhancing and sustaining the independence, dignity and quality of life for older adults and those of any age with a disability for as long as possible. In accordance with our mission and concern for the safety of all, CICOA’s position is that when an individual’s driving abilities are noticeably declining, and they are at risk or become a danger to themselves and others, it is time to take action.
CICOA strongly encourages family, caregivers and/or friends take the first step by initiating a conversation with the individual concerning their driving abilities. The caring individual(s) can begin by sharing their concerns about the person and their driving. It helps to present some examples of poor driving behavior of the person that has been observed. Be sure to listen to the individual and be ready to discuss some solutions. There are intermediate steps before denying driving privileges, such as no driving at night, staying off the interstate, setting a mileage limit, and so on.
It is also advisable to solicit the input of the persons’ health provider. At some point it may be necessary to have the driving abilities of elderly loved ones evaluated by independent sources. (Crossroads Easter Seals and Community Hospital in Indianapolis have driving examinations. The BMV has a list of others). If it becomes necessary, the Indiana BMV can be contacted when questions of safe driving are of concern.