Helping Older Drivers Give Up the Car Keys



Many seniors reduce their driving voluntarily as their abilities decline, but many unknowingly become unsafe to themselves and other motorists. Wrestling the keys from an older parent’s hands can be a difficult, though important, chore. The trick is know when and how to do it. Here are some tips and resources that can help.

Start with an Assessment
To get a clear picture of your parent’s driving abilities, your first step – if you haven’t already done so – is to take a ride with him and watch for problem areas. For example: Does he drive at inappropriate speeds, tailgate or drift between lanes? Does he have difficulty seeing, backing up or changing lanes? Does he react slowly, get confused easily or make poor driving decisions? Also, has he had any fender benders or tickets lately, or have you noticed any dents or scrapes on his vehicle? These, too, are red flags. For more assessment tips see SeniorDriverChecklist.info.

If you need help with this, consider hiring a driver rehabilitation specialist who’s trained to evaluate older drivers. This typically runs between $100 and $200. Visit the American Occupational Therapy Association website (AOTA.org/older-driver) or the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED.net) to locate a specialist in your area.

Transitioning and Talking
After your assessment, if you think it’s still safe for your parent to drive, see if he would be willing to take an older driver refresher course.

These courses will show him how aging affects driving skills, and offers tips and adjustments to help ensure his safety. Taking a class may also earn him a discount on his auto insurance. To locate a class contact your local AAA (aaa.com) or AARP (aarp.org/drive, 888-227-7669). Most courses cost around $20 to $30 and can be taken online or in a classroom.

If, however, your assessment shows that your parent really does need to stop driving, you need to have a talk with him, but don’t overdo it. If you begin with a dramatic outburst like “dad, you’re going to kill someone!” you’re likely to trigger resistance. Start by simply expressing your concern for her safety.

For more tips on how to talk to your parent about this, the Hartford Financial Services Group and MIT AgeLab offers a variety of resources at TheHartford.com/lifetime – click on “Publications” on the menu bar, then on the “We Need To Talk” guidebook.

Refuses To Quit
If your parent refuses to quit, you have several options. One possible solution is to suggest a visit to his doctor who can give him a medical evaluation, and if warranted, “prescribe” that he stops driving. Older people will often listen to their doctor before they will listen to their own family.

If he still refuses, contact the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to see if they can help. Or, call in an attorney to discuss with your parent the potential financial and legal consequences of a crash or injury. If all else fails, you may just have to take away his keys.

Alternative Transportation
Once your parent stops driving he’s going to need other ways to get around, so help him create a list of names and phone numbers of family, friends and local transportation services that he can call on.

To find out what transportation services are available in his area, contact the Rides in Sight (RidesInSight.org, 855-607-4337) and the Oklahoma Senior Info. line (800-211-2116), which will direct you to his area agency on aging for assistance.

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