If your loved one is experiencing physical or cognitive difficulties, you may be wondering about his or her ability to drive a vehicle. First, let's clarify that ageing in itself is not a contraindication to driving a car. However, health status or certain medical conditions may result in incapacities likely to compromise the driver's safety and that of other people on the road.
Should I be concerned?
If your loved one is experiencing physical or cognitive difficulties, here are some signs that driving safely might be difficult:
- Recent traffic violations or accidents;
- Difficulty judging distances (e.g., when turning);
- Slowing down of reflexes and reaction times (e.g., braking too late);
- Forgetting the meaning of some common road signs;
- Unusual behaviour (e.g., stopping in the middle of the road for no reason);
- Nervousness or excessive irritability while driving;
- Taking an unusually long time on familiar routes, etc.
If you are worried about your loved one, don’t hesitate to talk to his or her doctor or a health professional such as an occupational therapist. These people can assess the situation and run screening tests if necessary.
Rules and assessments
In Quebec, it is mandatory to undergo a medical and vision assessment at 75 and at 80 years old, and then every two years after that. However, if a person is experiencing difficulties or incapacities likely to comprise his or her safety or that of others, certain health professionals may recommend that the SAAQ perform a driver fitness test using more in-depth assessments.
It is important to know that these assessments do not necessarily result in licence suspension. In many cases, the person may continue driving but with certain conditions, such as driving only during the daytime or not driving on the highway.
Broaching the subject with your loved one
The subject of driving is a very delicate one and your loved one may not be very receptive to the idea of giving up this activity, which is often synonymous with freedom and independence.
- Try to seize the right moment to broach the subject: after a medical appointment, when SAAQ documents are received, when repairing the car or if you see a news item that could open the discussion on the topic.
- Talk openly and calmly. If you have noticed signs that are causing you concern, this could help you illustrate your point.
- Express your concern not just for your loved one’s safety but also the safety of others who share the road. Some people are not afraid of what might happen to themselves, but are more receptive when it comes to other people’s safety.
Don't hesitate to talk about the situation with your friends, family and health professionals. For more information, visit the SAAQ website.