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Is it time for a parent to stop driving?

No one wants to be involved in a car accident. However, people take risks and make poor decisions every day that put them in danger of suffering serious injuries in a car accident. Unfortunately, a major risk that people take is getting behind the wheel when they should not be driving.

Elderly drivers are among those who could put themselves and others in harm's way. If you are worried about your parent or loved one's driving abilities, it is important to talk with them sooner, rather than later, about limiting or stopping their driving altogether. 

Signs that a loved one may need to stop driving

Many people continue to drive safely well into their golden years. But, as this AARP article notes, there are clear signs that a parent or loved one may need to hang up their car keys. These signs include:

  • Feeling scared to drive
  • Being easily distracted (by circumstances other than cellphone use and universal distractions)
  • Getting lost while driving to and from familiar places
  • Failing to adjust driving speed to changing or unsafe road conditions
  • Frequent near-collisions
  • Scraping mailboxes, posts, garages and other objects
  • Delayed response times and reflexes

These signs could indicate that your parent or loved one has visual, cognitive, and/or physical conditions that could prove dangerous while driving.

Tips for talking to them about driving

It can be very difficult to talk to a parent or loved one about their driving skills. People in general are very protective of their driving skills because continuing to drive can help to ensure a person's independence. Feeling threatened when discussing their driving skills can make someone angry and defensive.

Therefore, approach this extremely important conversation with compassion and concern for your loved one's safety. Instead of telling parents or loved ones they need to stop driving immediately, consider asking them to initially limit their driving to daytime hours, and destinations close to home.

You could express your fears that they might get into a serious car crash and become injured, or even cause harm to others. Be specific regarding the reasons they are at risk. These reasons could include serious health conditions, the side effects of medications, recent close calls, and other factors you have observed.

Finally, offer ways to preserve your parent or loved one's independence. Perhaps you could drive her or him to unfamiliar places and more distant destinations. You could also look into transportation services for the elderly in the area.

Whatever you do, make sure you put safety first - for the sake of your parent or loved one, and out of concern for others who share the road with them. 

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