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Wednesday February 1, 2023
Driving Tips for Aging Parents
What is the best way to deal with older drivers who probably should not be driving anymore? My dad, who is 86, is determined to keep driving as long as he can.
For many families, talking to an elderly parent about giving up their car keys can be a very difficult and sensitive topic. While there is no one way to handle this issue, here are a few suggestions that can help you evaluate your dad's driving and ease him out from behind the wheel when the time is right.
Take a Ride
To get a clear picture of your dad's driving abilities, a good first step is to take a ride with him and watch for problem areas. For example, does he have difficulty seeing, backing up or changing lanes? Does he react slowly, get confused easily or make poor driving decisions? Does he drive at inappropriate speeds, tailgate or drift between lanes? Also, has your dad had any fender benders or tickets lately, or have you noticed any dents or scrapes on his vehicle? These, too, are red flags.
If your dad is willing, consider hiring a driver rehabilitation specialist who is trained to evaluate elderly drivers and provide safety suggestions. This type of assessment typically costs between $200 and $400. Use your preferred search engine to locate a professional in your area.
Transitioning and Talking
After your assessment, if you think it is still safe for your dad to drive, see if he would be willing to take a refresher course for older drivers.
These courses will show him how aging affects driving skills and offers tips and adjustments to help keep him safe. Taking a class may also earn your dad a discount on his auto insurance. Most courses cost between $20 to $30 and can be taken online.
If, however, your assessment shows that your dad really does need to stop driving, it is best to sit down with your dad and have a rational conversation about his safety and the safety of others on the road. Start by simply expressing your concern for his safety as opposed to beginning with a dramatic outburst.
For more tips on how to talk to your dad about this and evaluate his driving skills, the Hartford Financial Services Group and MIT AgeLab offers a variety of resources to assist you.
Refuses to Quit
If your dad refuses to quit, you have several options. One possible solution is to suggest a visit with his doctor who can give him a medical evaluation, and if warranted, "prescribe" that he stops driving. Older people will often listen to their doctor before they will listen to their own family.
If he still refuses, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles to see if they can help. You may also call in an attorney to discuss with your dad the potential financial and legal consequences of a crash or injury. If all else fails, you may just have to take away his keys.
Once your dad stops driving, he is going to need other ways to get around. Help him create a list of names and phone numbers of family, friends and local transportation services that he can call on.
To find out what transportation services are available in your dad's area, use your preferred search engine to look up an agency on aging for assistance.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.
Published March 4, 2022