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The Lieutenant Governor's Office on Aging is compiling the most frequently requested information asked by seniors, their families and caregivers.

If you have questions for the Office on Aging, please send an email to askus@aging.sc.gov.

ASK AGING

Driving Assessments

Question: In the last several months, I have noticed that my father has not been doing as well as he used to with his driving, particularly at night. He is a proud man and I know that he will likely become upset if we suggest he hang up his keys. What advice do you offer to senior drivers and their families on addressing this potentially dangerous issue?

Answer: One of the toughest decisions that a family can make is deciding their loved one no longer has the physical or mental skills to operate a car on his/her own. It’s not very hard to figure out why. Driving represents freedom and independence. Giving up the keys is more than symbolic in the many rural areas of our state without strong systems of mass transit; it means giving up the ability to handle basic errands, such as shopping or going to the doctor.

Over the last several years, the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging has put a great deal of effort into establishing transportation programs designed to serve seniors. There is little question that, as the senior population swells with the Baby Boomers entering retirement, transportation services become an increasingly significant component in our initiative to build senior friendly
communities in South Carolina. Even though we work to offer viable transportation options throughout the state, many seniors and their families will still have to make the tough call of deciding when it is in their best interest to hang up the keys.

There are several different sources of information that you can turn to in making an assessment of your father’s driving abilities. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) offers a great fact sheet with tips, some of which are listed below, to assess a senior’s driving skills. In addition, many professional physical or occupational therapists, who specialize in rehabilitating individuals disabled by stroke, accident or other injury to regain their driving
skills, are offering their services to individuals whose driving skills may be waning simply due to old age. These services include routine assessments and, when needed, rehabilitative therapy.

Another excellent program for older adult drivers is the AARP Driver Safety program. The six hour course helps older drivers improve skills, avoid traffic crashes, other traffic violations, a brush up on their driving-related knowledge, and defensive-driving techniques.

Due to a change in state law supported by AARP SC, all licensed drivers (25 and older) in South Carolina who complete the course can now receive a discount on their automobile insurance. For more information on how to register for an AARP Driver Safety program, contact AARP South Carolina toll-free by calling 1-888-227-7669. There is a fee to register.

Tips from the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists: www.driver-ed.org

Aging and Driving
As we all age, changes occur in physical functioning, vision, perception, and processing abilities that could make driving unsafe. While changes are inevitable, they occur at different rates in each individual, and age alone is not a good indicator of driving skills. Most often these changes occur slowly over a long period of time, and the individual is able to compensate for minor deficits. If several skill areas are affected or there is a sudden change in abilities due to illness or disease, driving may become impaired. An evaluation is recommended if you, or those who drive with you, notice any of the following warning signs.

Warning Signs:
 Doesn't observe signs, signals, or other traffic
 Needs help or instructions from passengers
 Slow or poor decisions
 Easily frustrated or confused
 Frequently gets lost, even in familiar areas
 Inappropriate driving speeds (too fast or too slow)
 Poor road position, or wide turns
 Accidents or near misses

A driver rehabilitation specialist can provide a comprehensive evaluation and make recommendations regarding driving. This assessment should include:

 A review of medical history and medications
 Functional ability
 Vision
 Perception
 Reaction time
 Behind-the-wheel evaluation

If you or someone with whom you drive is having difficulty, a driver evaluation may be indicated. A driver rehabilitation specialist can provide a comprehensive evaluation to determine your ability to drive.

For more information on senior issues and the programs and services offered by the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging, visit the agency website www.aging.sc.gov or call toll-free to 800-868-9095.