Are you worried about your parents' driving, and don't know what to do?  Well, chances are you should be. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, seniors are more likely than younger drivers to be at fault in an accident and their most common violations are failure to obey traffic signals, unsafe turns and passing, and failure to yield the right of way. Sound familiar?

As children and caregivers of aging parents, one of the most difficult subjects to tackle is getting our parents to stop driving.  I know, because I tried so hard to avoid it. Every time my father got behind the wheel, I cringed. We begged him to give up driving. When that didn’t work, we hid his keys - which he always found. When he turned 84, he had to renew his license. Aha, I thought. The Division of Motor Vehicles would notice his failing eyesight and impaired judgment and deny him a license. But that didn’t happen - and 10 minutes after he arrived at their office, he proudly displayed his renewed license. Clearly we cannot count on these agencies to help.

We're entering the 2012 Holiday Season, the time of year when entire extended families get together and spend quality time with one another.   Perhaps this is time to initiate this difficult conversation with your parent(s) or other loved one. Refer to our recent post on "The Time to Speak is Now" which offers some advice and recommendations for readings on how to approach these uncomfortable, emotional and sensitive talks. 

There are available resources to help you every step of the way---

  • An Advanced Driving Directive is a formal document that appoints a family member to evaluate the parent's driving and determine whether it's safe for them to drive. The time to sign this up is when they're active drivers. In conjunction with entering into this document, you can create a plan on what to do should they be impaired or unable to drive. Similar to Advanced Medical Directives this document allows you to tackle a difficult part of an issue before it appears and focus on the solution(s).  

There are also many available programs for Senior Driving Safety that are either primarily web-based or a combination online and class room settings.   Examples of these include: 

  • The AARP which  offers several courses for Senior Driving. Their  online course for drivers age 50 and older provides skills and tools one needs to drive today’s roads safely and provides useful information to stay safe on the road.
  • The American Automobile Association (AAA) offers a comprehensive driving program for seniors that includes classroom courses as well as many online tools that help evaluate and improve one's driving. Their easy to use website contains links to State Sponsored Drivings Programs throughout the country. Visit their website to see what's available in your state. 
  • In Florida, The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has established a statewide coalition to address the needs of Florida’s aging road users. They've put together a comprehensive, primarily web-based resource center where Floridians can access a variety of driving and transportation resources. The coalition has created a comprehensive, primarily web-based resource center for seniors and their families to obtain a variety of safety- and transportation-related resources in Florida. You can refer to their website for more information.

But perhaps the most comprehensive and potentially effective program is:  "Keeping Us Safe." Using an individual and personal approach this program provides help to and engages families who are facing the perils of senior driving in most areas throughout the US. The program was founded by Matt Gurwell, an Ohio State Highway Patrol Officer, who saw first-hand the potential dangers of senior drivers. 

Keeping Us Safe certifies individuals (like you and me) to perform driving assessments on seniors in the comfort of their home. If the individual is deemed to be a "safe driver," then they're provided strategies on how to stay safe on the road as they age. If the assessment shows that "driving retirement"  is the most appropriate decision, then they are provided acceptable alternatives, resources and a very specific plan to ensure a smooth and successful transition from the driver's seat to the passenger seat.  

Other unique features of the program include: a structured training course for MD's and other key personnel who influence the daily decisions made by seniors: and a  "Family Driving Agreement" by which seniors agree to defer to the judgement of appointed family member or friend on when to stop driving. the need to stop driving. The driving agreement is intended to help the older driver maintain his or her dignity, which as Mr. Gurwell states, " is so important to this whole driving retirement process."

Suggested Readings

Tags:Communications Driving

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Nancy Stein

Nancy Stein is the founder of Seniority Matters and lead author of the Seniority Matters Blog. This is where you can turn to read about new service providers, enhancements to the website, and updates and commentaries on issues and events that are of interest to the South Florida senior communities. Of course, no blog is complete without feedback from readers, so don't be shy! Leave a comment and let us know what you think

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