Some seniors will make the decision to stop driving on their own, and others may not consider it until the subject is bought up to them by those who care about them. Each senior has different physical abilities and limitations, and these do change over time at different rates for different people. Therefore, there is not a clear-cut time when you should be concerned about your parents driving on the road. However, some signs may show the time has come. For example, you may have noticed that there are a few dings and dents on your parents' car or may be aware that they have been in a few minor fender benders or received traffic citations recently. If you are concerned about their driving for these or other reasons, you may be wondering how you can bring the subject up.
Common Safety Concerns With Older Drivers
The thought of bringing up this topic to your parents may not be a pleasant one. Many seniors hang onto their independence with a fierce grip for as long as possible, and their ability to be independently mobile is a big part of that. However, the fact is that as people age, their bodies change in many ways. Their ability to react to certain situations or events on the road changes, and their ability to see and hear may diminish as well. Statistically, seniors are involved in more accidents than their middle-aged counterparts, and their physical health and abilities are a major reason for this. Chances are that your parents are aware that they are having a more difficult time on the road. They may be more anxious or nervous behind the wheel, and they may have started driving slower to compensate for their physical limitations.
As their child, you can ask them how they feel behind the wheel in a non-judgmental way. If you know that they are having trouble seeing in the dark at home, you may relate that to driving on the road at night. If you know that they cannot hear, you may point out their inability to hear sirens when you are driving on the road and an emergency vehicle is approaching. You may suggest that they get their vision and hearing tested. A well-check may also give them more indication about their response time to certain situations. Making them aware of their limitations in a non-judgmental way is an important step to take.
An Extended Talk
Many children of seniors will begin talking to their parents about when they should stop driving early on and before it may be necessary for them to fully retire from the road. For example, if they are having trouble driving at night, you may suggest that they only drive during daylight hours. If you are concerned about them driving too slow because of their slow reactionary time, you may consider talking to them about driving during non-peak traffic times. When it is time for them to fully retire from driving, you should give them a helpful alternative to driving themselves. Many seniors may not want to rely on friends and family members for help driving to the grocery store, doctor's appointments and other places, and there may be driving services available in your local area that can be used as needed.
It is a true blessing when your parents live a long, healthy life, but it also comes with challenges. Many will reach a point when their physical abilities and limitations make driving a relatively unsafe activity, and children may need to tell their parents to stop driving. Keep these factors in mind when you begin having this conversation with your parents.