As your mom or dad ages, are you growing increasingly worried about their driving?
First off, as a caring adult child, your concern is understandable.
After all, according to Transport Canada, between 2000 and 2015, more seniors died in traffic fatalities than any other age group across Canada.
But before you take away you parent’s keys, consider these two things:
- Some experts say the vast majority of older drivers are “safer drivers” than most
- For many seniors, giving up their driver’s license represents the end of independence—and can lead to social isolation (which in turn can lead to mental illness such as depression)
As such, if you decide to speak to your parent about giving up driving, you will want to tread very carefully—and with a great deal of respect.
Before you take away the keys, do this…
- First, do your research. As noted above, there appear to be some conflicting opinions out there regarding seniors’ safety on the roads. Don’t just take one study’s word for it.
- Don’t assume. Meanwhile, don’t just assume that because they’re elderly, they can’t drive. In fact, according to a spokesperson at the CAA, the most dangerous drivers out there are young males!
- Remember there are laws to help protect them. Don’t forget: there are several provincial regulations already in place to protect older drivers. For example, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation requires anyone 80 years and over to renew their license every two years. This includes a vision test and a written test, among other things.
- Consult your parent’s physician. This survey by State Farm states that 94% of seniors would stop driving if it was recommended by a medical professional. (In other words, an expert opinion will likely be better received than if it comes from you.)
- Consider a driving assessment. CAA has a great resource section for senior drivers on its website, including a free assessment to test their driving skills.
If you need to have “the conversation,” do this…
Here are some tips for speaking to an elderly parent about their driving:
- Don’t be confrontational—and remain calm. You don’t want to create a situation where your parent becomes defensive. Be supportive. It will make the discussion (and coming to solutions) easier.
- Acknowledge their feelings. Allow your parent to express themselves. Make them realize you understand and are listening carefully.
Focus on transportation alternatives. Losing the car does not have to mean your parent loses their independence. Suggest other ways to travel—such as with the help of family, friends, or public transportation. Many community-based organizations also have programs—such as grocery shopping programs via an escorted bus service.