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When You Are Concerned - A guide for families, friends and caregivers concerned about the safety of an older driver

(When You Are Concerned is also available as a PDF)

Chapter 1

FAMILIES, FRIENDS AND CAREGIVERS

"He's had two recent crashes and I'm getting very concerned."
"She went to her regular hairdresser and got lost for an hour on the way home."
"I will not let my children ride with him anymore."
(COMMENTS FROM RESPONDENTS - SURVEY OF FAMILIES CONCERNED ABOUT THE SAFETY OF AN OLDER DRIVER)

In 1997, the New York State Office for the Aging conducted a survey to understand the experiences of families and caregivers concerned about the safety of an older driver. The survey was open to families, friends, caregivers and service providers concerned about the safety of an older driver. Participation was voluntary. Some 123 families completed the survey questionnaire. Their responses provided the first comprehensive look in the nation at families and the drivers about whom they were concerned, as well as the services which hold potential to be of help.

Who responded to the survey?

How long were they concerned about the driver?

How did they know the driver was having a problem?

Who were the at-risk drivers?

What kind of safety concerns were identified?

What other things did they see?

What concerned them most about taking action now to prevent the person from driving?

What did they see as potentially helpful for their situation?

A FAMILIAR RING?

If the survey findings have a familiar ring, it is because your concerns are shared by most faced with an at-risk aging driver. Indeed, what to do about an at-risk or unsafe aging driver has become a growing issue among more and more families and caregivers. And like you, they are troubled by what they see when their aging loved one gets behind the wheel. Most families and friends want to help, but often they are not certain what to say, what to do or even where to find assistance.

You probably know from your own situation that the indicators of a problem with driving are rarely as dramatic as a serious crash. More often, they come from a range of indicators taken from the driver's routine behavior, home environment and, of course, their driving. It is this composite view which serves to crystallize the notion that the driver may now be at-risk or has actually become unsafe.

Surrendering the wheel is a significant event for anyone in an automobile dependent society like ours. If your loved one has to give up driving, everyone involved will be impacted to some degree, especially the driver. He or she will lose freedom and independence. Family members may now have to assist with transportation. And if you had a hand in fostering the decision to cease driving, your relationship with your loved one and other family members not supportive of your actions, may also be unfavorably impacted. This downside, however, must be measured against the very real consequences of letting an at-risk aging driver remain on the road.

"I was at work when I heard the ambulance and fire trucks leaving. I didn't think anything of it. I found out it was my 87 year old Aunt. The police said she left the rest area going the wrong way. She went into a car passing a truck and was killed instantly. The other driver was severely injured. In talking with my cousins, they said they were getting concerned about their mother's driving and were going to talk to her. Now it's too late."

Chapter 2