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Talking to Your Parents About Driving

For many seniors, driving equals independence. So how do you know when it’s time to ask them to stop driving? How do you have that conversation?

When To Ask For The Keys

According to the CDC, in 2018, more than 255,000 older adults (aged 65+) were treated in emergency departments for crash injuries. According to statistics, each day, more than 20 older adults are killed and almost 700 are injured in crashes.

Yet, according to studies, age itself isn’t to blame. In general, older drivers are safer than other demographics. Senior drivers are more likely to drive under the speed limit or get a traffic ticket. Yet age-related declines in vision, physical changes and reaction times can make the situation more hazardous. 

According to the AARP, there are a number of warning signs to look for that may signal it’s time for your elderly parent or loved one to put on the brakes. They include:

  • A difficulty concentrating or getting easily distracted
  • Driving too slow or too fast 
  • Weaving in and out of lanes
  • Little dents and scrapes to the car
  • The inability to respond in time 
  • Getting lost, especially in familiar locations
  • And of course, accidents

So How Do You Talk To Someone About Not Driving

  1. Don’t wait until something serious happens. It’s never going to be an easy topic to bring up, but it’s better to start the conversation before someone gets hurt. Suggest they give up driving long distance, at night, in rush hour or bad weather. The CDC has a document called My Mobility Plan that can help.
  2. Put yourself in their shoes. Let them know that you know this is a hard thing to think about. Ask how they’re feeling about it and find solutions that still give them control. Ask if they’ve noticed any changes in their driving skills. 
  3. Talk with their peers. Some things are easier to hear from someone their own age than someone younger (who isn’t in the same situation). Let their friends or siblings know that you’re concerned and ask them to have a conversation with them. However, do not use a family meeting to hold the talk with a parent. It could make them feel overwhelmed, as though everyone is against them.
  4. Be objective. If you feel there’s a problem and they don’t, suggest that they go to the DMV to take a driving test. There are driving and vision tests or refresher courses for senior drivers. Let them prove you wrong. However, be ready for the possibility that they might pass their test, and if you still see them making dangerous mistakes on the road, this could make it harder to get them to stop driving in the future.
  5. Show them that they won’t lose all independence. Show them how easy it is to use ridesharing by taking some Lyft or Uber rides with them. JF&CS offer transportation services as well. You can also promise to spend one afternoon driving them around.

     

It’s never an easy conversation but it’s an important one.

Both of you want the same thing, for everyone in your family to be safe and independent. By understanding what parents or other seniors are going through and coming from a place of partnership and love, instead of authority and fear, you can make the conversation more successful. Work together and hopefully you will both feel better in the end.



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