If an elderly parent is showing signs of cognitive or physical decline, one may need to have a tough conversation. An older adult whose capacity to drive is diminished by age or health problems can be a real risk to themselves and others on the road. Drivers who are aged 75 years and older have higher accident fatality rates than younger drivers between the ages of 35 and 54 years old. Beyond the impairments than come along with age, older individuals are more likely to get seriously hurt in crashes, compared to younger drivers. Also, common car accident injuries take longer to heal for elderly victims. It is important to learn about unsafe driving in the elderly age group to ensure the safety of loved ones and other drivers.
How Does Age Impact Driving Skills?
There are several reasons why older drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents. Three-quarters of people over 65 years old use at least one medication that may alter driving performance. Reduced range of motion, flexibility, and muscle weakness can make it tough for seniors to perform the physical tasks involved in driving, such as turning the wheel and applying the gas and brake pedals. Some studies show older drivers are less adept at seeing oncoming vehicles. Also, older drivers may not be able to adequately judge speed and distance. Crashes involving older individuals tend to occur most often at stop and yield signs, and where drivers are making left-hand turns.
When is it Time to Stop Driving?
It is normal to experience change with age, but some people experience more debilitating issues than others. It can be tough to determine if loved ones have declined to a point where it is no longer safe for them to drive. Some signs that an elderly parent should not drive include:
- Vision and hearing impairments
- Previous accident history, including fender benders
- Running stop signs and stop lights
- Showing signs of memory loss and confusion
- Driving too slowly
- Having medical conditions or taking medications that impact the ability to drive
Another way to tell if an elderly loved one should stop driving is when passengers feel unsafe or witness unsafe driving behaviors of the elderly parent.
How Should I Talk to My Elderly Parent?
Pfizer and Generations United conducted a survey of adults with elderly parents, and the results were surprising. More participants said talking to a parent about driving retirement was more difficult than discussing finances, wills, and final wishes. The following are tips to help make the process easier:
Approach the Conversation with Empathy and Kindness
Getting older is inevitable. Imagine how one might feel in the same situation as an older parent. Avoid being confrontational and assure that the parent is loved and supported. Reinforce the message that their safety and the safety of others should be the top priority.
Choose the Right Time and Place
Older parents should not feel attacked or defenseless. Talk to them at home or wherever they feel most comfortable. A sibling, friend, or other loved one they trust most should be the person to bring up the subject. The ideal time to talk might be after a change in health or after an accident or ticket.
Share Reasons for Concern
Some seniors are likely to shrug off a loved one’s concerns and insist they are fine to drive. It is helpful to have concrete examples to make points more convincing. One should mention if they recently received a ticket, had an accident, or a health condition that might affect driving, as uncomfortable as it may be. It can be helpful to use open-ended questions to initiate conversations. This way, a parent can reflect on their situation and feel empowered to make their own decisions instead of feeling forced to give up their driving privileges. Some important topics to discuss include:
- Doctor appointments
- Vision and hearing evaluations
- Side effects of medications
- Determining if the parent feels confused while driving
Consider Limited Driving
If one has concerns about their parents’ driving abilities but do not feel they are at a point where they need to stop completely, try making a few adjustments to reduce their risk of serious crashes while helping them stay independent. Some adjustments include making sure they drive during the day and in good weather. Also, driving should be local; it is important for them to avoid major roads and high-traffic driving times. If one feels a limited driving plan is best for their parent, continue to assess their abilities going forward. It may be smart to schedule a driving test with the local motor vehicle agency as well.
Create a Plan for the Future
Talking about new ways to keep parents independent will help ease the blow of taking away their keys. Discuss among family who can help the elderly parent get where they need to be. Research programs and services in local areas to help seniors stay active to avoid isolation.
What Should I Do if My Parent is Reluctant to Stop Driving?
Not every parent will give up the car keys willingly. If their safety is at stake, one may need to take more drastic measures. Start by speaking to their primary care physician. Unfortunately, if they will not listen, one may have to take legal action to prevent them from driving. If that happens, their driver’s license will be replaced by a state ID. While this is a last resort, it is necessary for some families; the alternative is daunting. Imagine how the family would feel if one’s parent seriously injured someone in a motor vehicle accident. Additionally, one can contact a trusted car accident lawyer to find out how to go about requesting a driver review for an elderly parent.
How can an Elderly Parent Remain Independent After Driving Retirement?
Depending on where one lives, one might be pleasantly surprised to learn about the wide range of benefits and services available to seniors, including county transportation services to take residents to grocery stores and doctor appointments. Other ways to help elderly parents when they stop driving include:
- Rideshare services, like Uber and Lyft
- Hired caretakers to help them with errands
- Schedules that divide errands among family members and friends
- Delivery services for medications and groceries
Empowering Seniors to Stay Safe and Independent
For many seniors, the loss of driving privileges can have serious effects. It can be traumatic, and driving retirement is shown to increase the risk of depression. While it may be an inevitable step in a parent’s life, it is important to be mindful about how it is approached. Talk about the subject openly and honestly, well before they reach a point where they are a danger to themselves and others.
Consider how this change will impact daily activities, freedom, and their independence. Guide loved ones through the process and help them access alternative transportation. With love and support, parents can stay vibrant, engaged, and social, even if they are no longer driving. If a loved one is in an accident, a car accident lawyer should be contacted to ensure compensation is obtained. Additionally, a lawyer can help with driving reviews for elderly parents.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Clients Injured by Unsafe Drivers
It is never easy to admit when it is time to retire from driving; however, it is an important conversation that most adult children will have with their elderly parents. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC represent clients involved in serious car crashes, and we will help protect your loved ones if they were involved in an accident. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 215-569-8488. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.