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12.08.2015

Helping older loved ones decide when to hang up the keys

This week is National Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, an opportunity to consider talking with older loved ones and family members about safe driving practices, including when it might be time to retire from driving.

According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injuries and deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents increase with age, making it critical that older drivers take extra precautions to stay safe while driving. However, as skills and abilities like eyesight, response time and muscle strength decline with age, it may be safer for older drivers to change their driving habits or perhaps decide to stop driving.

This is not an easy decision as many older people may feel this reduces their independence, so preparing for this step by planning ahead can make the process easier on everyone. Talking with loved ones about this sensitive topic can be difficult, but there are a few tips to keep in mind that may help:

  • Assess health status. Understanding your loved one’s current health may help you prepare for your discussion in order to propose adjustments to their driving or a timeline for transitioning to other transportation. It could also be helpful to join them for a drive to determine how their health may be impacting their driving skills.
  • Bring it up early. It’s much easier to talk about retiring from driving in a year or more versus tomorrow. This gives everyone time to think over the idea of no longer driving and consider how to prepare. Talking about it before a ticket, or even worse, an accident, can provide for a much more calm discussion.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Driving can play a big role in someone’s life, offering them independence and mobility. Without proper preparation and planning, it can lead to feelings of depression and isolation, so don’t discount the emotions connected to driving when discussing it with your loved one.
  • Make a plan. Work together to come up with alternative transportation modes as they phase out driving themselves. Is public transportation available, safe and reliable? Are you or other family members available to drive them places when needed? Can you hire a companion to make sure they get where they need to go? Answering these questions in advance and knowing what options are available makes the transition much easier and ensures your loved one is still able to be as active and involved as they always have been.

Talking to an older loved one about retiring from driving can be challenging, but by approaching it in a sensitive manner, you can work together to come up with a plan that everyone is comfortable with.

For Health Advocate Members

If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life program, a Licensed Professional Counselor can help you create a plan to talk with older family and friends about retiring from driving. A Work/Life Specialist may also be able to locate resources in your area to help older loved ones get around once they’ve stopped driving.

Other Helpful Resources:

To learn more about how tips to talk with older loved ones about driving, please visit any of the website below for additional information: