I recently handled an auto insurance claim from an older driver, and it prompted me to have a conversation with my mother about the signs that a parent should stop driving. These signs may help you decide when it’s time.
The question "Dad, can I have the keys to the car?" takes on new meaning when the child asking is not a new teen driver but an adult whose parent is no longer capable behind the wheel.
It’s a question more and more adult children are finding themselves asking, even though most of us would rather avoid the subject altogether.
Driving is much more than getting from one place to another. It is a symbol of independence and freedom. Try to take those away when a person isn’t ready for it, and be prepared for some teenage-caliber rebellion. But if Mom or Dad is jeopardizing their own safety and the well-being of others, it might be time to have a talk. It will likely take several conversations before you can convince your aging parent to stop driving.
There is no such thing as an age limit when it comes to driving. States don’t regulate it or automatically revoke the licenses of senior drivers. Some states do require additional testing once drivers reach a certain age, but for the most part, it’s left to individual drivers to monitor their own ability. It’s very common for older folks to need convincing that the time has come.
Younger seniors in their 60s and early 70s are statistically safe drivers, based on a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. They drive shorter distances, don’t talk on cell phones on the road, and avoid rush hour or bad weather. But after age 75, fatality rates increase among older drivers, and after age 85, fatality rates surpass the high rates of young teen drivers. Elderly drivers tend to die more often in car accidents because of the medical complications resulting from their age.
Signs Your Parent Should No Longer Drive
What are the signs that your parent is no longer fit to drive? They are usually as unique as your Mom or Dad and can occur suddenly or over time.
- Watch for behavior and personality changes as they can indicate cognitive issues.
- Forgetfulness can lead elderly drivers to simply stop their car—in intersections or other inappropriate places.
- Vision problems are common in old age, so be aware if cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration is diagnosed. Loss of depth perception can affect a person’s ability to judge distances.
- Hearing loss can affect drivers’ awareness of sirens and other normal warning signals they have previously taken for granted.
- Ride along with your parent, if possible, and observe how he or she handles the car and whether other drivers honk their horns at them. Does your parent drive the speed limit (not too slow or too fast)?
- Are there unexplained dents or other damage to your parent’s car?
Steps to Take When Taking Away the Car Keys
- Don’t rush into the decision, and by all means include your parent(s) and sibling(s) in the conversations. Remain compassionate but firm.
- Can you or a sibling accompany your parent on upcoming doctor appointments? Vision, hearing and reflexes are main things to monitor.
- Research alternative transportation options and arrange with friends to provide frequent rides for errands and appointments. Learn about community or church transportation options.
- Talk to your parent’s auto insurance agent or contact us for more helpful tips.
At Reis Insurance Agency, we understand the importance of family harmony. We also have nearly 40 years of experience helping drivers do what is best for themselves and others on the road. Please contact us or stop in our River Falls office if you are dealing with decisions about an elderly parent’s driving.