When to take the car keys from your aging parent


There is no set age at which you can go ahead and go Driving Miss Daisy on an aging parent. It’s not as if the older you get, the worse you drive. If anything, it may be the other way around. “Seniors as a whole are the safest age group on the road, the least likely to speed, the least likely to drink and drive, and the most likely to use seat belts,” director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA Jake Nelson said on Today.com. According to Nelson, the at-fault crash rate doesn’t begin to increase until people reach their mid 70’s – even 80+ drivers have lower crash rates than teenagers by about 50%. Unlike Sammy Hagar, seniors have no problem driving 55.

The overall health of the elderly person does have lot to do with whether they can drive anymore, though. An obvious example is vision problems. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have special license requirements for seniors, ranging from vision testing to more frequent renewals. And there are many other conditions related to the aging process that can impair a person’s driving skills. How these conditions are managed also influences driving privileges. However, the best way to assess the situation is to literally go on a test drive with your aged P.

Consider whether your parent

·         Drives below or above the speed limit.

·         Seems disoriented.

·         Gets honked-at a lot (without any bumper sticker encouraging other drivers to do so for any given reason, for instance, if they love Jesus).

·         Can’t see traffic signs.

The AARP says the following 10 signs are warnings that a senior may have to stop driving:

  1. Almost crashing with frequent close calls.
  2. Dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
  3. Getting lost even in familiar surroundings.
  4. Difficulty following traffic signs, road signals, and pavement markings.
  5. Slow reaction to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas pedal to the brake, or confusing the two pedals.
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps.
  7. Road rage.
  8. Being easily distracted or having difficulty concentrating.
  9. Difficulty turning around to check the rear view.
  10. Numerous traffic tickets or warnings for law officers.

If some or all of these signs are present, then it’s time to sit down and have a conversation with your parent. The elderly person may resist the idea of not being able to drive and understandably so; it is akin to giving up a huge amount of independence. If that’s the case, you can offer them alternatives such as a taxi service, Uber, public transportation, volunteer drivers and government ride programs for seniors. Additionally, siblings can take turns to drive the senior around, for example to and from medical appointments. In the meantime, aging parents may benefit from a refresher course or having their car adjusted.

If the senior is adamant that they can and will keep trucking, so to speak, then and only then should you resort to a higher power. “The doctor has the right to write to the state licensing agency expressing his concerns about the continued driving of the parent, and the state has a right to revoke the license,” founder and president of non-profit The Caregiver Space Adrienne Gruberg says. And keep in mind that a Magical Negro probably won’t come to the rescue.