One of the hardest things to do is have that conversation with an older relative about hanging up the car keys for good. It’s likely one of the most challenging conversations to hold with an aging parent or grandparent, because surrendering driving privileges can sever the last ties the person may have with their community-at-large.
Even senior citizens who live in regions where there are excellent public transit systems may loathe losing that little bit of independence that driving left them. Still, you would never want to lose your elderly relative in a preventable car wreck or have them be responsible for unleashing highway carnage that kills or maims others because their driving skills deteriorated with age.
There is no magic age to turn over the keys
Making this decision particularly difficult is that there is no certain age for all motorists to give up driving. There are drivers in their 50s whose health is so precarious that it precludes their driving safely, and there are also steady, cautious and alert drivers who are well into their 80s.
The problem is that many conditions like dementia make their sufferers unaware of just how much mental ground they have lost. These people believe that they are perfectly able to continue climbing behind the wheel long after their reaction times and judgment have proven far too unreliable to continue driving safely.
But there are definite red flags
Safe driving involves many complex systems of the body simultaneously. Motorists’ eyes and ears have to be sharp enough to discern hazards, their judgment must be sure and their physical actions behind the wheel, e.g., braking and taking evasive action, swift.
Below are some red flags of which to be aware as your family members age:
- Slowed response to the unexpected
- Scraping sides of the vehicle on garage walls, mailboxes, etc.
- Lack of confidence when driving in traffic and when merging
- Unable to avoid distractions while driving
- Driving too slow or fast for weather or road conditions
- Striking the curb on right turns
- Getting into a series of fender-benders
Take action before tragedy strikes
You should make every attempt to hold the conversation at an appropriate time and place and not embarrass your elderly loved one. But this is a conversation that needs to be held sooner rather than later once you suspect that the person is no longer capable of driving safely.
Come prepared with solutions
Your elderly loved one is going to be less eager to hand over the keys if they will not have a way to get around to run errands, go to church and other activities, etc.
If you are willing to be a source of rides or to fund an Uber or Lyft account, make sure that you mention that, as well as come armed with other transportation options.
Those who have been injured in accidents with negligent elderly drivers must take steps to preserve their right to seek financial compensation for any losses and/or damages.