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Are you worried about your aging parent’s ability to drive?

As your parent ages, you may wonder if it is still safe for him or her to drive. Maybe you have noticed that your parent is having trouble focusing, gets confused easily or is unable to explain new dents in his or her car. Maybe you have not noticed anything in particular, but you want to be more aware of the signs to look for.

Age affects driving ability in several ways, but it is often difficult for older adults to realize how age may be impacting them. If you are worried about your aging mother or father, it may be appropriate for you to take action to protect your parent as well as others on the road.

Signs that it may no longer be safe for your parent to drive

If you are worried about your parent’s driving abilities, you may consider finding an excuse to ride along with him or her. This might give you the opportunity to observe your parent’s driving skills, and see if he or she is actually having any difficulties driving safely.

When you go for a ride with your parent, pay attention to any challenges he or she has that could be unsafe. This may include any difficulties with turning his or her head to look back, turning the wheel quickly, braking safely, seeing clearly during the day or night, hearing clearly or maintaining attention on the road.

Even if you do not ride along with your parent, you may notice other signs indicating a problem, such as:

  • Multiple vehicle crashes or near misses
  • Multiple new dents in the vehicle
  • Two or more tickets or warnings in the past two years
  • Increased car insurance premiums because of driving incidents
  • Comments from neighbors, friends or doctors about driving ability
  • Frequent complaints about the actions of other drivers
  • Anxiety about night driving
  • Health issues or use of medications that could impact driving ability

Possible actions if you notice driving difficulties

Some challenges have simple remedies. For example, a difficulty reading street signs may be fixed with an updated prescription for glasses. Other times, it may be appropriate for your parent to limit driving. For example, your parent may no longer be able to safely drive at night if his or her night vision is poor. However, some challenges may only get worse with time and may require your parent to stop driving altogether.

Talking with a parent about his or her driving abilities can be difficult. Driving is often associated with independence and personal freedom, which makes it especially hard to give up, even when giving it up is necessary for safety.

When you talk with your parent, try to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements, and focus on driving skills and safety instead of your parent’s age. Also, be prepared to address some of the concerns your parent is likely to have. Be aware of the local services which could help your parent with his or her transportation needs, and show support by offering to help find additional solutions to help your parent remain independent.

If your parent struggles to drive safely, he or she could cause a traffic accident that results in property damage or injuries, which could have physical, legal and financial consequences. As difficult as it may be, talking with your parent about his or her driving abilities can help protect your parent as well as others on the road.

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