The Rep

Road safety: When is it unsafe for an older person to be driving


Some older adults can drive safely in their 80s and even early 90s.

But road safety and individual safety is affected when seniors begin to develop hearing, vision and physical limitation­s.

Driving competence is more than just being able to control a car physically.

Safe driving requires a combinatio­n of physical and cognitive ability and driving skills, and proper driving conduct.

As we advance in age, natural changes happen in our minds and bodies, and these changes might restrict or prevent us from driving.

Some European countries require that drivers over 70 e prove their fitness every three years, however in SA there is no legislatio­n preventing older people from driving.

“Observing a loved one's driving and watching for warning signs of risky driving is an important first step in deciding whether it’s time to talk to them about surrenderi­ng their keys and driving licence,” says Barend Smit, marketing director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options.

One sign of cognitive decline in an elderly driver is getting lost even on routes they travel often.

This might happen because of mental exhaustion or disorienta­tion.

Another sign is not coming to a stop at stop signs or red lights, again because mental exhaustion and disorienta­tion might prevent the driver from recognisin­g these signs.

If the elderly driver has difficulty staying in their lane, has trouble judging distances and is driving too quickly or too slowly, there is a higher risk of collisions and vehicle damage.

“If you notice your loved one is exhibiting some of these warning signals, it’s essential to talk to them, keeping in mind this might be a complicate­d and stressful topic,” Smit says.

Here are some tips for a successful discussion:

Schedule a one-on-one conversati­on. Including too many people can result in chaos and tension.

Instead, pick one person whom you believe will be receptive to hearing and assisting the senior driver in choosing the best course of action. Concentrat­e on road safety.

The primary focus of the talk is driving safely and avoiding a collision that might result in injury or death.

Rememberin­g that safety comes first will help the parties involved avoid any downsides that may arise throughout the chat.

Discuss self-reliance/independen­ce.

Surrenderi­ng a licence may appear to be a loss of independen­ce.

Discuss alternate transporta­tion choices that will allow the senior driver to keep some amount of personal independen­ce. Demonstrat­e your support.

Before making a choice, it’s critical to show compassion for your loved one.

Listening to them and being empathetic to their problems can assist you in finding an effective solution.

Once the elderly person in your life has made a decision about driving, alert the car insurance provider.

“Vehicle insurance has evolved significan­tly in recent years,” Smit points out.

“Many insurance offerings now include lower premiums for people who drive less frequently.

“This insurance package might make sense for an elderly person who doesn’t drive too often, since most elderly people also tend to choose to take their drives outside of rush hour.

“It’s worthwhile investigat­ing the different options available,” Smit concludes.


MotorHappy provides advice, rewards and products in the Motorverse, from buying to selling your car and everything in-between.

Establishe­d in 2015, MotorHappy provides a ‘go to’ platform that addresses the needs of motorists via a single online portal, providing a convenient way to manage and optimise one’s motoring journey.

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