Helping Aging Loved Ones Hang Up the Car Keys

Many of us think back fondly on the familiar feeling of excitement when first getting our driver’s licenses. While driving often symbolizes independence, freedom, and control, there are certain circumstances where safety takes precedence. Whether due to age, medical condition, or cognitive decline, initiating conversations about giving up driving can be incredibly difficult but important for the well-being of your loved ones and the community. When approached with love, compassion, and empathy, they can be easier to navigate.

Pay attention to signs it might be time to stop driving

Often drivers who are nearing the end of their ability to safely drive have telltale signs that it’s time to hang up the car keys. Measuring things like visual skills, reaction time, and processing speed while someone is behind the wheel of a car can help you assess whether operating a vehicle is now dangerous or not for your loved one. It’s important that you do your research and ride in the car with them while driving so you can observe their driving habits personally. Here are some specific signs to pay attention to as laid out in a recent New York Times article:

·      Are they missing traffic lights or safety signs?

·      Are they struggling to maintain the speed limit or stay in their lane?

·      Are they becoming confused about directions, particularly on familiar routes?

·      Are their driving skills waning, resulting in unsafe decisions?

The article goes on to caution others against ageism because the decline in driving isn’t really about someone’s age, but rather about any changes in their ability. Since not everyone ages at the same rate, there isn’t a specific age for when older drivers should stop driving. 

Approach the conversation with sensitivity and care

If you feel unsafe as a passenger in your loved one’s car and have noticed they might need to reduce their driving or stop driving altogether, it’s important that you broach the topic with them sooner rather than later. Difficult conversations like these typically go better when they are in a relaxed environment, in one-on-one settings, and approached with care and compassion. 

Drivers 65 or older have higher chances of getting killed in a car accident than drivers between the ages of 35 and 54. This isn’t just due to the effects of aging while driving, but also because seniors are more susceptible to more severe injuries. Facts like these can help you make your case, even though the suggestion to stop driving can be a difficult one to accept.

Safety is the main priority

Because safety is the most important reason why aging loved ones might have to hang up the car keys, it may be easier to have them evaluated by their health care provider. If their doctor also agrees with your suggestion, their professional driving evaluations can offer objectivity and clarity that your loved-one might need to hear.

Asking someone to give up a piece of their independence like driving can be very difficult, so having solutions ready is also a great way to help ease the blow. With services like grocery delivery and ride-share apps readily available, there are more options today than ever before. In addition to carpools and public transportation options, prepare a plan in advance to ease the transition and help provide a sense of continued autonomy.

Taking proactive steps now can help keep everyone safer in the long run. However, since accidents do happen, even with the best precautions in place, you may find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing a personal injury lawyer. If you or someone you know was in a serious car accident on Long Island and needs an attorney, the North Shore Injury Lawyer, Mark, is just a phone call away at 631-495-9435.