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Just because someone reaches a certain age doesn’t, by itself, make them a bigger risk when they get behind the wheel. Still, with age comes limitations and the need to address physical and cognitive changes putting seniors and others at greater risk.

While you likely can’t influence the driving abilities of those you meet on the road, there are crucial steps you can take to recognize, assess and discuss changes to the driving habits and skills of those you love.

Red flags for older motorists

Most people consider driving as a declaration of their own independence. That can make it incredibly challenging to discuss concerns over a loved one’s driving abilities. But it’s crucial for everyone’s sake to bring these issues to light when they occur:

  • Are there new dents or scratches on their vehicle?
  • Are they taking medications that could affect their driving?
  • Do they suffer from any illnesses that can affect their abilities?
  • Do they get lost on routes they’ve driven for years?
  • Have they been ticketed for impaired driving?
  • Have they recently received any traffic tickets?
  • Has a doctor advised them to stop or limit their driving?
  • Do they appear confused by road signs or stop lights?
  • Do they drive too fast or too slow for no apparent reason?

How can you help?

A person’s driving abilities should never be judged on age alone. But changes in eyesight, reflexes, attention and physical fitness can jeopardize everyone’s safety. In many cases, accommodations can be made, such as new glasses or taking senior driving courses to adjust their skills. Take these three steps to address concerns:

  1. Collect information
  2. Develop an action plan
  3. See it through

Concern is an expression of love

If you experience any worries over an older love one’s driving abilities, having a discussion sooner rather than later is vital. Many resources exist to help you identify and discuss these issues, such as a resource called “Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed the guide with help from the USAA Education Foundation and AARP. This tool contains advice on spotting these issues and has useful tips for older people on how they can adapt their skills and remain safe drivers.