If you are starting to worry about whether it is still safe for your aging parent to drive—especially if they just got into an accident—you may be wondering what to do. Driving offers a world of freedom, and most people are reluctant to give that up. So how can you broach this topic with a loved one?
Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn is here to help. Let’s dive into how to tell if driving is dangerous for your loved one and, if needed, how to bring it up with compassion.
When Should Older Adults Stop Driving?
First, you will need to determine whether your anxieties are founded or not.
Are there signs that your older parent’s driving skills are deteriorating? Or are your friends’ parents giving up driving, making you wonder whether it’s time for your parents to do the same? Was your parent involved in an accident? If so, was it their fault? And even if it was, did it have to do with anything related to their health or age?
Remember, age alone is no reason to stop driving. But if your parent is starting to have trouble with age-related ailments or illnesses, their driving skills may take a hit.
A few examples of challenges that could bring an end to an aging person’s driving years include vision and hearing loss, prescription drug use, and serious health conditions like arthritis, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.
What to Look Out for in Senior Drivers
Common signs that an older adult should no longer be driving include:
- Reluctance to drive: If your loved one seems suddenly reluctant to drive, that may be a sign that they are having trouble behind the wheel. They may blame it on the area, such as if they complain about getting lost a lot, or even about other drivers.
- Unexplained damage to the car: This may include scratches, dents, scuffs, and any other types of damage sustained from hitting the curb, trouble parking, or minor accidents.
- Increased car insurance rates: Car insurance rates tend to increase when the insurance company deems the policyholder to be at a higher risk for getting into an accident and filing a claim. Often, this happens after it receives reports of traffic tickets and/or accidents.
- Changes in their driving habits: This may mean they have stopped buckling their seat belt, have trouble staying in their lane, or have a slow reaction time. If they lean forward and crane their neck for most of the drive, that may be a sign they are having trouble seeing or are on edge about driving.
If your parents show any of the above signs, it may be a good idea to have an honest conversation about driving—and sooner rather than later.
Having an Honest Conversation About Driving with Your Older Parent
Now that you have decided to talk to your older parent about driving, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Plan ahead and start early: If possible, adult children should talk to their parents about driving as early on as they can—even before it becomes a problem.
- Approach the conversation from a place of curiosity: Your parent may be offended that you are taking issue with their driving skills. That’s why simply asking about how they feel about driving can be a good place to start. More than that, remind them that you are only bringing it up because you love and care about them.
- Recommend getting an expert opinion: A doctor, physician, or certified driver rehabilitation specialist (CDRS) can provide an expert opinion about whether someone is fit for driving. They also won’t hesitate to allow a perfectly fit adult to drive. An expert opinion can be a great option for many older parents, since they can rest assured they won’t be told not to drive for no real reason.
- Keep alternative options on the table: Your parent doesn’t have to give up driving all at once. They may just need to stop driving at night or in bad weather. (Note that doctors often recommend that older people reduce their driving time once it becomes a problem.) If your parent is fine to drive but their driving skills need some fine-tuning, recommend that they take a driving course with AARP, AAA, or work with a CDRS.
- Make the conversation an ongoing one: The first conversation doesn’t have to be the last one. Close the conversation with a suggestion to check back in about driving soon. This is especially important if your parent decides they want to visit a doctor or try out driving classes.
The conversation about driving doesn’t have to be a difficult one. To learn more about this topic, visit Caring.com’s helpful guide to seniors and driving here.
About Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn
Our San Francisco trial attorneys at Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn have been serving the Bay Area since 1980. If you or a loved one has been injured in a traffic accident that was no fault of your/their own, we will work to bring the at-fault party to justice. We have resolved thousands of injury claims, recovering over $500 million for our clients in the process. Let us fight for you!
Give us a call at (415) 940-7176 or contact us online for a free consultation.