According to a National Safety Council survey, 99 percent of drivers claim to be safe drivers, but 93 percent of these folks to do follow recommended safety practices.

Safety features in modern vehicles do not replace safe driving skills. Impaired driving may not always be caused by alcohol or drugs. Impaired driving can be caused by changes in physical function or mental acuity due to aging or disease.

Everyone wants to continue driving as long as possible. Deciding if and when to stop driving can be a difficult and emotional time. Some folks fail to give up the car keys because they do not recognize declining abilities and fear becoming dependent on others for the necessities of life or reducing their social and leisure activities.

The role of vision in driving is critical. It is estimated that 95 percent of information drivers receive is visual. Many disabilities caused by chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension can affect vision. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists identifies that visual function important to driving performance includes acuity, field of view or peripheral vision, contrast sensitivity, glare recovery, scanning, tracking and visual perception skills.

Warning signs of vision changes that impair driving include:

 Poor glare recovery

 Difficulty driving after dark

 Inability to detect traffic light colors

 Inability to read signs at a distance

 Change in depth perception

 Fender-benders or near misses

Besides vision, other changes in physical function, perception, and processing ability can occur and make driving unsafe. While changes are inevitable, they occur at different rates in each person so age is not a good indicator of driving skills. Often the changes occur slowly and the person is able to compensate for minor deficits. Driving will become impaired if several skill areas are affected or there is a sudden change in abilities due to acute or chronic illness.

A professional evaluation is recommended if you, or anyone riding with you, notice the following warning signs:

 Driving too slowly or too fast

 Failure to observe signs, signals

 Failure to yield

 Difficulty interpreting traffic situations and predicting changes

 Needing instruction from passengers

 Poor road position; wide turns

 Getting lost, even in familiar areas

 Driving wrong way especially on entrance ramps or freeways

 Dents and scrapes on fenders, fences, garage, mailboxes, etc.

As people age they tend to look first to family members for candid advice concerning their well-being and health issues. It is good for family members to start the conversation about safe driving out of a sincere sense of caring for their loved one’s well-being. If the older drier is not taking proper action in response to concerns and impairment is becoming increasingly obvious, it may be necessary to involve the driver’s personal physician who can made a referral for a professional driving evaluation.