Initiating a conversation about safe driving with an older adult, especially a parent, is challenging for most people. Concerns about offending or alienating an older driver are normal. There is no simple or easy way to address the subject, but if you want to help preserve the older driver’s personal freedom and mobility, while ensuring safety on the road, there are steps you can take.
- Communicate openly and respectfully. Nobody wants to be called a dangerous driver, so avoid making generalizations about aging drivers or jumping to conclusions about their skills or abilities behind the wheel. Be positive, be supportive and focus on ways to help keep them safely on the go.
- Avoid an intervention. Keep the discussion between you and the older adult you want to assist. Inviting the whole family to the conversation will alienate and possibly anger the person you’re trying to help.
- Make privacy a priority. Always ask for permission to speak with a driver’s physician, friends or neighbors about the driver’s behavior behind the wheel.
- Never make assumptions. Focus on the facts available to you, such as a medical condition or medication regimen that might make driving unsafe. Do not accuse an older driver of being unsafe or assume that driving should be stopped altogether. This discussion is about helping and working together.
AAA is interested in helping senior drivers remain driving as long as they can safely do so. We’ve launched a new senior driving website, found at SeniorDriving.AAA.com and developed educational presentations like Keeping The Keys to help seniors and their caregivers to recognize and understand the changes that occur naturally as we age. The first step is to understand how and why the changes that come with aging affect driving. The next step is to decide on a course of action to adjust for these changes, so the senior can still drive safely for as long as possible.
When family members stay involved with aging love ones, they are more available to help them when issues related to their driving come up. Seniors can assure their safety behind the wheel by self-regulating, avoiding high stress – high risk driving situations, staying active and seeking out learning opportunities. Remember driver education? It’s never too late to learn. The more we know and understand the aging process and how it affects us and our ability to do certain things, like driving, the safer we’ll be behind the wheel.
Jack Peet, of Grand Rapids, is Traffic Safety Manager for AAA Auto Club Group. He joined AAA in 2011 after retiring from a 27- year career with the Michigan State Police. He is responsible for traffic safety initiatives and policy in an eight state Mid-west North Region and assists with three states in the South Region that make up The Auto Club Group. Jack will be a featured speaker on “Keeping The Keys” at the Caregiver Expo on Saturday, October 13, 2012 at Sterling Inn in Sterling Heights. You can reach Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org.