For seniors who have been driving since getting their driver’s license in their twenties, giving up driving is not going to be easy. Most seniors equate driving to independence and mobility – and taking that away from them can be crushing. But we all know that as we grow older, the day will come when we have to give up our car keys. So, when should seniors stop driving? Well, the answer is not that simple.
In Singapore, your drivers license do not expire until you reach 65 years-old. Drivers who turn 65 are required to undergo a medical examination to assess their fitness to drive and a doctor has to sign off before you can renew your driver’s license. Every three years after that you will need a repeat medical examination to again renew your driver’s license. Does the LTA policy imply that seniors are unsafe drivers? Not really. The Rand Corp’s research in 2007 done in the USA found the following. “Drivers 65 and older are 16 percent likelier than adult drivers (those 25–64 years old) to cause an accident, and they pose much less risk to the public than drivers under 25, who are 188 percent likelier than adult drivers to cause an accident. ” While age makes senior a riskier driver compared to adults 25-64, the risk that seniors pose is pale by comparison to drivers under 25 years-old. The study also found little data to support stricter licensing policy for seniors.
According to the American Association for Retired Person (AARP), caregivers should look for the following signs that points to unsafe driving by seniors. And then be prepared to have that difficult conversation …
- Delayed response to unexpected situations
- Becoming easily distracted while driving
- Decrease in confidence while driving
- Having difficulty moving into or maintaining the correct lane of traffic
- Hitting curbs when making right turns or backing up
- Getting scrapes or dents on car, garage or mailbox
- Having frequent close calls
- Driving too fast or too slow for road conditions
If you are a caregiver or loved one, and when the day comes to have the conversation with the senior driver about giving up his driver’s license, just remember to be kind and gentle – it is not a clinical discussion about their health. Seniors who have driven all their lives deeply value their ability to drive – and any talk about taking away that privilege will evoke strong emotions and push-back. Good news is that in Singapore, you may be spared this tough-love discussion if your family doctor refuses to sign off on the medical examination!