How To Tell If Your Aging Parent Needs To Give Up Driving

Did you know that seniors age 80 and older have the highest rate of fatal crashes per mile driven than even teens? Often times, many people drive thinking they are competent drivers long after it is safe for them to do so.

As we get older, we have vision problems and our reactions are slower than they were when we were younger.  This increases our chances of getting into an accident.  Often times we are used to being faster and don’t realize we have a vision problem until it is too late.  Most state legislatures ignore the problem or at least don’t want to ruffle tail feathers.  In Virginia, the only requirement after age 80 is a vision test and licenses are renewed every 8 years.  There are only 19 states that require seniors to renew their licenses more often than younger drivers. Of those 19 states, half cut the renewal time to 4 to 6 years.  Illinois and New Mexico require annual renewal. Illinois is the only state to mandate that drivers retake the road test as they age.

Driving gives us all our independence and freedom.  Everyone wants to get around and not be reliant on others or sometimes public transportation isn’t desirable or easily obtainable.  Getting someone who has driven their whole life to give it up is hard.  It is hurtful to them.  If you have ever approached a a loved one, friend or colleague about giving up driving, I am sure you know what I am talking about.  State lawmakers are apprehensive about taking action because of unpopularity so most of the time it is left up to family members and loved ones to tell any individual deemed dangerous to give up driving.

So, what is the right way to approach this issue?  If you are suspicious that someone’s driving skills in your family are deteriorating, take a ride with them first to see what is going on.  This may sound dangerous but it is hard to determine what is going on if you don’t see it for yourself.

Take note if they are having problems signaling when changing lanes, not checking their blind-spots, braking at the last minute, not following traffic signals or signs, forgetting where they are going or anything else that seems odd to you.  If you notice problems with their driving…”address it head-on,” says Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research at AAA. “Most people wait until after a crash and it’s too late,” he says. Catching it early is key.

Obviously you want someone who is charismatic and non-combative to bring up the issue.  It is always a good idea to start with positive things about the person and lead your way into the subject.  If the senior has a health problem, then address it and explain why it may be better for them to stay away from behind the wheel.  Miriam Zucker, a geriatric care manager, suggests saying something like, “Dad, you’ve been a safe driver for 60 years, but with your cataracts, I know it’s harder for you to drive at night. If you got hurt or hurt someone else, that would be awful.” If your senior is just a bit slow with reaction times as far as breaking it may be best to drive during slow times and staying off the highways.

If you are going to suggest someone not drive a vehicle anymore, it is a good idea to investigate transportation options in your area and their cost. Public transportation is usually more affordable and point out the savings and convenience of using an alternative way of getting around.

When an aging parent doesn’t want to give up driving but is a danger, often families hide the car keys or make the car not drivable.  A better way of getting your parent to oblige is to make their doctor the bad guy and tell them they can’t drive anymore.  Rules and regulations vary from state to state.  A great resource to find out laws in your state would be to go to AAA website