Navigating the decision on when to stop driving.

Driving today is frightening. There is more traffic on the road than ever, people are driving faster, and with mobile devices being used in the car, there are an increasing number of distractions. The result is often deadly.

Without a doubt, there are people on the road who shouldn’t be driving. When it comes to the elderly, the tough part is that driving represents independence. Most baby boomers don’t like to rely on others to do something they feel they can do themselves.

Tough Talk

Seniors today are active, many are employed, they travel and like being able to get around on their own. Many will make small concessions or minor changes such as limiting night driving and avoiding heavy traffic areas. But having an in-depth conversation with them about when to truly relinquish the car keys and give up driving, is tough.

The discussion around restricting a senior’s ability to drive is so common that it is the topic of a recent Washington Post article, “Will your older self refuse to give up the car keys? Here’s how to plan.” The article points out that nearly 50 million people 65 and older had driver’s licenses in 2021 and nearly 19 million were 75 or older.

That’s a lot of people on the road who may have issues putting them at high risk for auto accidents. They may have physical limitations, poor vision, slower response rates, or cognitive loss. The key is having a plan and open conversation about how to proceed when the time comes for them to stop driving.

Tools to Help

  • A driving advanced directive. It will spell out how the decision is made when the appropriate time comes. How the conversation will take place and who will ultimately make the decisions. Many of the advanced directives are non-binding but do create a healthy framework for the conversation.
  • Driving evaluations. There are companies that will evaluate an individual’s driving ability and make a recommendation on whether they should continue to drive. If you’re not sure where to start, check with your insurance company and senior organizations like AARP.
  • Physician recommendations. Often a physician will flag concerns about a senior driving such as vision changes, reaction time, or memory loss – all of which can be particularly dangerous.

Use the tools available and have a healthy conversation about how to keep your loved ones safe on the road. For more information and additional resources, check out the complete article from the Washington Post (requires email address).