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Stop parents from driving

To continue to drive, seniors and their families need to monitor their response time, vision and hearing.  © iStockphoto.com/Yulia Saponova To continue to drive, seniors and their families need to monitor their response time, vision and hearing. © iStockphoto.com/Yulia Saponova
By Luigi Fraschini

You can have a lot of awkward moments with your parents -- sitting with them at an R-rated movie, listening to them describe your first wife to your second wife, walking in on intimate moment. 

But one of the most awkward moments is the day you tell one of your parents they can't drive any more. 

Should Your Parents Stop Driving?

Since driving means freedom to so many of us, the inability to drive can be devastating. Many older people are still competent drivers, but the normal process of aging can hamper driving ability, as can the medications that many elderly people take.

Statistics quoted by Foremost Insurance show that drivers over 75 are at the same risk for an accident as teenage and young adult drivers -- the 16- to 24-year-old age group. Just as with teenagers, though, only a portion of the population of older drivers are dangerous behind the wheel. Many others have very safe records. They use seat belts, and they don't speed, drive recklessly or get behind the wheel after drinking. These older drivers may restrict their driving to daytime, and avoid bad weather and rush hour traffic. But many others would be much safer if they ceased driving forever.

Driving Behavior Tip-offs

If you have an elderly parent (or two), how do you know what to do? How do you decide on the best time is to take away the keys?

One good first step is to observe how they drive. A trip to the store or any other routine trip is a good opportunity to check out their driving. Initial indicators of driving skill problems may become apparent even before you get in the car. Scrapes, dents or scratches on the car or on items in the garage where the car is parked are indicators that all is not as it should be.

Other indicators that there may be trouble ahead are behaviors observed while in the car. Habits like riding the brake, getting distracted easily from the road ahead or confused about what to do at an intersection or signaling incorrectly are clear signs that driving ability is becoming impaired. While on the routine trip, watch out for instances of poor parking skills, hitting the curb or becoming confused with directions, signals or signs. Indicators that call for immediate attention are things like running red lights, getting lost in familiar places or confusing the gas and brake pedal.

Health Affects Driving Ability

Observing how a family member drives is the most important part of this process, but it's also important to keep tabs on their health. To continue to drive, seniors and their families need to monitor their response time, vision and hearing. They -- or the children involved in this driving privileges decision -- also need to talk with their doctor about the medications they take and whether those medications will affect their driving ability.

Here are some questions you might ask regarding your loved ones' health as it affects driving ability: Do they have a regular vision checkup and keep their corrective lenses prescriptions current? Do they seem to have trouble hearing, and if so, have they had their hearing checked? Do they need hearing aids but refuse, for reasons of frugality or vanity, to get them? Do they have memory problems?

Having the Driving "Talk"

Once you decide that persuading your loved one to quit driving is the right course, you'll have to have "The Talk." 

Find an opening. A discussion about a recent accident that was in the news or a discussion of stressful driving conditions may give a lead in to a discussion about driving capabilities. A spouse, an adult child or the family doctor is usually the best person to start the conversation. Most people would rather hear from a family member about concerns on their driving. The last person they want to hear it from is a police officer. You might be surprised to learn that your parent might actually be relieved about giving up the responsibility of driving …a s long as they feel they can still be mobile.   

Copyright (c) 2010 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.

Luigi Fraschini riving Today Contributing Editor Luigi Fraschini writes frequently on automotive safety issues. He has an 84-year-old mother who still drives.

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