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Keeping your ageing loved ones safe on the road


As we get older, it’s vital we can access social connections, hobbies and appointments for as long as possible, but it’s also important to ensure we can access them safely. Driving gives us a sense of independence in our lives, and nobody wants to lose that. Thankfully, there are some common signs you can look out for that indicate age-related problems with driving, and this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop driving altogether.

How ageing can affect driving

Reduced vision at night and during bad weather

Unfortunately, as we get older, we can be at a higher risk of some common vision issues. These can include macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Our road networks rely on our vision, so if we have problems seeing road signs or hazards, this impacts our ability to drive safely.  

Hearing impairments can affect hazard awareness

Drivers of any age should be aware of how important hearing is when driving, which is why it can be so dangerous to drive with headphones. Aside from the risks of not being able to hear what’s going around you when driving, hearing loss has been found to affect cognition as well, which could affect your ability to drive safely.

Delayed response times can increase risk

There are a range of age-related conditions and impairments that can affect our ability to drive safely, even when we’re not on the road. For instance, it is much harder to get consistent, quality sleep the older we get, which could affect driving. 

How do you know if your loved ones are safe on the road?

For children or friends who are concerned about a loved one’s ability to drive safely, there are some warning signs to look out for. Of course, if you do notice these things, address them with care and don’t jump to the conclusion that your loved one is unable to drive anymore. 

Car insurance or traffic tickets

If you notice any late-payment notices from insurance providers or traffic tickets, this could be a sign your loved ones are struggling to keep on top of either some of that administration of owning a car or even of their driving ability. 

Damage to the car

Take notice of any new dents and scratches on the car. They could be a sign of some of the above impacts on hearing, sight or mobility.

Reluctance to drive

Driving with impaired faculties isn’t a pleasant experience. Problems with vision, cognitition, and hearing can make it much harder to drive confidently, and so make it a scarier activity. If your loved ones seem reluctant to go anywhere, this might be a sign of them losing confidence on the road. 

Driving behaviour changes

If you’re in the car with an older driver, you might notice changes in their driving behaviour. For instance, if they’ve been a calm driver in the past but start to become very agitated when driving, this could be a sign that they’re feeling more stressed when driving. Remember that this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be driving, it could be an indicator of something else going on in their lives.

New medications 

Be conscious of any new medications elderly loved ones might be taking. Medications affect people differently, so it’s always a good idea to keep track of these and monitor how they affect things like balance, cognition and sleep.

Keeping your loved ones safe on the roads

Check how they’re coping on the road

The best way to keep your loved ones safe on the roads as they get older is to get in the car with them. If you sense they lack confidence when driving, this might not mean they need to stop driving. They could benefit from driving lessons to bring back that confidence and help them stay safe when driving. 

Ensure they’re having regular health checks

A medical professional can help assess anything that could impact someone’s ability to drive safely, such as with their vision, hearing, cognition or mobility. Check your relevant state or territory’s driving restrictions above, as some parts of the country require annual health checks over a certain age. 

If you’re concerned, start a conversation about options

Driving gives individuals a great sense of independence, and losing that sense of independence can have knock-on affects in terms of quality of life. It’s important to start conversations with that in mind. If someone you love seems to be having trouble driving, this might not mean they have to stop altogether. Your first step is encouraging them to talk with a health professional about the issue. 

As you get older, it’s important that you have the right insurance for your needs. Explore our car insurance products below and get a quote online.  

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Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency Pty Limited ABN 14 099 650 996 is an authorised representative of AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807, the product issuer. Limits, exclusions and conditions apply. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. Go to apia.com.au for a copy. The Target Market Determination is also available. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. The information is intended to be of general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.

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