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Having the Driving Talk: When You Think Your Parents Should Stop Driving.

For most of us, there will be a time when we need to stop driving.

How do you recognize when that time is?

How do you talk about it with your loved one?

Most of us remember getting our driver’s license and the feeling of independence that came with it. We cannot imagine the day we will need to give up the keys. That's why giving up driving can be so difficult - we associate it with independence, self-reliance, and responsibility. We may have spent so much of our lives relying on being able to drive somewhere that we cannot picture a life without it.

Some Warning Signs That It May Be Time To Stop Driving

Decreased vision, hearing loss, cognitive changes, slower reflexes, stiffness, and pain affect a person’s ability to see, hear and respond to other drivers and pedestrians, especially when there are sudden changes. Certain health conditions and medications can also affect driving skills.

Most changes in driving skills occur slowly and often are not noticed initially. However, once you do recognize that someone’s driving habits have changed, it's probably time to have a conversation. Below are a few signs that someone may be having difficulty operating a vehicle.

  • Getting lost on routes that should be familiar

  • New dents or scratches to the vehicle, garage, fence, or mailbox

  • Driving violations and tickets

  • Experiencing a close call or accident

  • Becoming overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving

  • A delayed response to unexpected situations

  • Speeding or going too slowly for no reason

  • Difficulty moving into or staying in the correct lane of traffic

  • Hitting curbs when making right turns, backing up, or parking

Remember that giving up driving is often not just about driving - it symbolizes so much more and can be an emotional topic. There is no single approach when talking with an older adult about driving. You know your loved one best and what will likely resonate with them, so keep that in mind when preparing and follow these 4 guidelines:

  1. Be Prepared - understand the problem and be ready to offer solutions.

  2. Plan Ahead - create the right atmosphere for the discussion. Limit distractions and ensure the time is convenient for them and does not interfere with their schedule so that you have their full attention.

  3. Solicit Input - this should be a conversation with your loved one where you explore the problem and options together. Unless your loved one has cognition problems, they are probably still making their own decisions, so respect this and work with them.

  4. Be Empathetic and patient - think about what it would be like if someone asked you to stop driving. Try to speak slowly, remain calm, and know that it may take more than one conversation.