Keep Your Keys Program Helps Older Drivers Stay Safe

elderly person driving

As the coordinators of the Keep Your Keys program, MU Health Care’s Beth Koster and Amy Price regularly speak to groups of older adults. There is usually a moment when the people in the audience realize the presentation is meant to help them keep driving safely — not to convince them to stop driving — and they become much more enthusiastic.

Beth Koster
Beth Koster

“We’re not here to say, ‘Put your car in the garage and don’t drive it anymore,’” Koster said. “Afterward, people come up and say things like, ‘Thank you for coming. We didn’t know we could adjust our mirrors to have less of a blind spot.’”

MU Health Care’s Injury Prevention and Outreach Program began Keep Your Keys in 2015 with a focus on helping mid-Missouri drivers ages 55 and older, because older drivers are at higher risk than the general population of getting into car crashes and of suffering serious injuries when they do. In 2020, the program, which is funded by the Missouri Department of Transportation, expanded to cover the entire state, and Koster and Price have trained 42 people across Missouri to give Keep Your Keys presentations to hundreds of others.

The driving challenges for some older adults include:

  • Slower reflexes and reduced flexibility.
  • Declining vision or hearing.
  • Clouded thinking.
  • Medication side effects.
Amy Price
Amy Price

“Sometimes the symptoms sneak up on people so gradually that they don’t know until somebody else says something,” Koster said.

Koster and Price encourage older drivers to take a self-assessment, and, depending on the results, consider changing their routine. That could include driving only in the daytime or in low-traffic areas. They also offer practical tips for understanding new car technology and navigating unique roadway designs such as roundabouts, J-turns and diverging diamond intersections.

“The most frequent driving errors made by older adults include the failure to yield right-of-way, inadequate surveillance and misjudgment of gaps,” Price said. “Older adults are more likely to be involved in angle collisions, overtaking- and merging-related collisions and crashes in intersections. That is why it is so important to educate on new construction of highways and intersection strategies.”

In addition to the presentation for older drivers, Keep Your Keys has one for caregivers to prepare them for the tough conversations of helping a parent or loved one cut back or retire from driving.

“Nobody wants to lose their independence, and nobody wants to take away their loved one’s independence,” Koster said. “It’s a good idea to plan ahead for this possibility.”

To schedule or attend a Keep Your Keys presentation near you, contact Beth Koster or call 573-884-7143.