Be Prepared to Address the Issue of Safe Driving

Don’t assume a single conversation will resolve the issue, this is a process. Ideally, the first conversations about safety should start long before driving becomes a problem.

Early, occasional and honest conversations establishes a pattern where issues can be openly dealt with. One of the most important parts of mutual conversations is to pay attention, listen to what the older adult is saying, their concerns and fears.

Although it’s tempting to put off the “big discussion”, think about having to share the road with this unsafe, possibly dangerous, older adult driver. Think about being responsible for consequences if safety isn’t addressed.  Think about how you would feel if you had to relinquish your right to drive. Here’s a suggestion, give up your car for a week and get first-hand experience of the inconvenience, loss of mobility, frustration and being dependent on others.

Whenever possible, respect an older adult’s right to make decisions about their life—with your input and support. It is vitally important to understand and acknowledge that older adults face many losses at this stage in their lives which they can’t control. Their reaction may be to rigidly struggle to regain control of situations in their lives again. They may become highly defensive. When discussing safe driving, don’t come on too strong. Don’t say, “You have to stop driving” or “You’re too old to still be driving.” Start with phrases that encourage mutual discussion like, “driving sure isn’t what it used to be is it?” Express concern about the elder’s safety by saying, “I’m glad you don’t drive as much at night” or “I wouldn’t want you to drive if you felt it wasn’t safe.”  You may not be able to convince the elder to immediately give up driving. Look for others to help such as their friends, Occupational Therapists or their doctor.

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