Many senior citizens don’t willingly stop driving. Having a car — even if you only use it to run a few errands once a week — means independence. In fact, according to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, some 83% of seniors say they’ve never even talked with family members or a doctor about whether they should continue to drive.
Most people don’t lose the ability to drive safely overnight. Cognitive skills, reflexes and vision can decline slowly. Sometimes, a new medication will impair a person’s ability to drive. In all of these cases, the older driver may not realize that their driving skills have declined.
However, family members are often reluctant to confront an older loved one about their driving. Some don’t have “the talk” until they’ve witnessed a dangerous move or almost been involved in a crash. Too often, it’s the authorities who ultimately take a senior’s license away after a traffic violation or accident.
Unlike some states, Ohio doesn’t have additional licensing requirements based solely on age. Therefore, if someone is fortunate enough to avoid coming to law enforcement’s attention despite their declining driving ability, they may keep their license past when it’s safe to do so.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to talk to an older family member about giving up their car, it’s essential to do so carefully. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends using “I” rather than “you” statements. For example, instead of saying, “You are a dangerous driver,” say “I’m really worried about your safety [or the safety of the kids] when you’re behind the wheel.”
If you’re going to have this conversation, it’s important to have some alternatives prepared. Check on senior shuttle services in the area. If your loved one has a smartphone, put the Uber and Lyft apps on it for them and show them how they work. Many grocery stores have home delivery service now, so these trips are unnecessary — even for people who drive. It can’t hurt to mention that fewer people of all ages are driving these days.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be involved in a crash caused by an older driver whose family didn’t have this conversation — or who ignored their loved one’s wishes — make sure that you get the compensation you need and deserve to handle medical bills and other expenses and damages.