If you have started to notice an aging loved one is exhibiting some of the following warning signs, it may be time to initiate a conversation with them about the need to give up the keys. Julie Lee, vice president of the AARP's Driver Safety Program, wrote about these warning signs in a 2011 AARP article:
•Almost crashing, with frequent "close calls."
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•Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors or curbs.
•Getting lost, especially in familiar locations.
•Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs and pavement markings.
•Responding more slowly to unexpected situations; having trouble moving from the gas to the brake pedal, or confusing the two pedals.
•Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps.
•Experiencing road rage or frequently being honked at by other drivers.
•Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving.
•Inability to turn the head to check over the shoulder while backing up or changing lanes.
•Receiving traffic tickets or "warnings" from law enforcement officers.
"Giving up the keys is a very sensitive, personal decision," Lee said. "For some, the experience of relinquishing their driving rights can ignite feelings of anger, frustration, isolation and depression, according to AARP's 'We Need to Talk' seminar, which is based on information created jointly by The Hartford and MIT AgeLab. It's therefore crucial that when you broach this subject with a loved one, you're educated and prepared."
She suggested observing your loved one's driving firsthand. Look for warning signs, but try to differentiate between everyday mistakes and more serious safety risks, Lee said. If you do notice one or more of these cautionary signs, consider exploring the free "We Need to Talk" online seminar, available at www.aarp.org/weneedtotalk.
-- Jean Murphy