Spotting seniors who need to retire from the road - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Spotting seniors who need to retire from the road

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MIRAMAR (CBS 8) - A new program is helping to spot seniors who need to retire from the road.

It can be a very sensitive subject for a lot of families -- deciding if an elderly loved one needs to hand over their car keys as health problems from declining vision to dementia to side effects from medicine can hinder their ability to drive safely. A new program is helping to make that call.

"Most people outlive their driving abilities. Men by six years, women by 10 years,"

A new study finds nearly one in five senior citizens who still get behind the wheel has a medical condition that affects their ability to drive safely. In 2008, a 92-year-old woman crashed into a Midway-area apartment building after accidentally hitting the gas instead of the brake. The year before, an elderly man lost control of his car and crashed into a house in Rolando, killing him.

"Eventually, sometimes, you do have to take the keys away," Baiiey said.

To help determine if that time has arrived. A new program through the UCSD School of Medicine and the CHP funded through grants fro the California Office of Traffic Safety is training doctors and law enforcement to identify drivers 65 and older who may be at risk for a collision due to age-related health problems.

"These grants are not about taking seniors off the road. It is about making sure they have the right driving skills, making sure they are prepared for the road," Bailey said.

Many of these medical conditions, such as declining vision, can be addressed.

"Maybe they're on a medication that giving them side effects. and that can be reduced, or they may have something as simple as cataracts that's interfering with their ability to see," Bailey said.

Family members also play a crucial role in keeping their elderly loved ones safe.

"Once you become worried about somebody's driving ability, go out with them and see if they are having problems on the road," Bailey said.

Some of the warning signs: if an elderly driver gets lost or disoriented easily, neglects to buckle up or has trouble working the pedals. The good news is there are resources available to help evaluate senior drivers and then choose the best course of action.

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