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Determining when older Florida drivers should stop driving

As baby boomers enter the retirement years, there are more senior drivers on Florida roads. Even some of the boomers' parents, people in their 80s and older, are still behind the wheel. It's never easy to tell parents or other loved ones that they should give up the independence that driving provides. It may even be more difficult to recognize that you yourself no longer should be behind the wheel.

The American Association of Retired Persons lists some warning signs that may indicate an individual should consider limiting their driving or possibly giving up the keys altogether before something tragic happens. If you see any of these signs in family members or other older people in your life and aren't sure how to talk to them, AARP has a "We Need to Talk" online seminar that helps people "initiate productive and caring conversations" about limiting driving.

Mental acuity changes can significantly affect driving. Some older people find themselves getting lost in areas they know. They may also become easily distracted or have a hard time concentrating.

Physical limitations may also become a problem as people age. Some drivers find themselves responding more slowly, having difficulty moving their foot between the brake and gas pedals or turning their head to look behind them when changing lanes or backing up.

Vision or spatial issues may be a problem for some who notice difficulty seeing signals, signs and pavement lines. Some older drivers have difficulty judging gaps between their car and those around them. If you start finding scrapes or dents on your vehicle or on your garage door, mailbox or fence, that could be another sign that you are misjudging spaces.

Sometimes actions or behaviors by others are related to a person's poor driving. If you notice people increasingly honking or otherwise complaining about your driving, start getting traffic tickets or warnings or have more than the usual number of near-crashes, that may be cause for concern.

Some of these warning signs may be caused by diminishing faculties, such as vision, memory or mobility. Sometimes medical treatment can help with these issues. Other issues may result from medications that perhaps can be adjusted. The important thing is to recognize when you are no longer able to drive safely before something serious happens. Auto accidents caused by seniors result in injuries and deaths every year. They also can have criminal and civil legal ramifications.

Source: AARP.org, "10 Signs That it's Time to Limit or Stop Driving," July 19, 2014

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