Michigan has one of the oldest populations in the United States, with 14 percent of the state’s residents age 65 and older. This means that many drivers on Michigan roadways are over age 65.
As a person gets older, their ability to drive is negatively affected. When a person ages, their coordination is compromised, their reaction time becomes slower, and they often suffer vision and hearing loss. Despite this, an older driver is still expected to follow the same traffic laws as everyone else.
So how do you know when an elderly person may be having problems when driving? Here are some signs:
• drives far below the speed limit.
• asks passengers whether it’s safe to turn.
• ignores street signs and stop lights.
• has a difficult time staying in the driving lane.
• gets confused or gets lost.
• is involved in multiple traffic crashes.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s probably time to consider limiting the person’s driving privileges. This decision isn’t always easy, however, especially when it’s a relative. But take note: you don’t necessarily have to make the decision yourself. If you’re concerned whether an elderly person should be driving, you can:
• have a private driving rehabilitation specialist perform a driving assessment.
• ask the Michigan Department of State re-test the elderly driver – the department is required by law to re-examine a driver when there’s reason to believe the person can’t safely operate a vehicle.
While many older drivers will recognize their impairments and will willingly limit their driving, unfortunately some will not. That’s when family members, doctors and close friends need to get involved. More importantly, the elderly person needs to be included, too – in other words, don’t make the decision for them.
When the decision is made to limit (or take away) an older person’s driving privileges, a new transportation plan needs to be created. So take the time and learn about the public transportation options in your area. This includes bus services, community shuttles, walking, getting help from friends/family and taxi services.
The following are some helpful resources:
• Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Secretary of State – both have public transportation lists on their websites.
• http://www.eldercare.gov – a national assistance service that helps identify local resources for the aging.
• “The Rapid” – Kent County’s public transportation system that offers discounts to seniors.
• Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan – lists transportation services on its website.
• Senior and community centers – many centers provide transportation services to the elderly.