How do you stop an elderly person from driving? Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one. In most places in the United States, driving is freedom. When older adults approach the time when they may need to stop driving, it may signify a major and frustrating step away from that independence. Giving up driving can be a difficult decision and lead to many tough conversations and even conflicts. Read on for some helpful suggestions for adult children of elderly parents who may need to stop driving.
When should my senior parents stop driving?
Driving ability does not usually decline dramatically overnight. The change can be a gradual one that takes many years and looks different for every elderly driver. For this reason, it is better to catch indicators early and be proactive.
Here is a helpful list of questions to ask yourself, created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Are they getting lost on routes that should be familiar?
- Have you noticed new dents or scratches to the vehicle?
- Have they received a ticket for a driving violation?
- Have they experienced a near-miss or crash recently?
- Have they been advised to limit/stop driving due to a health reason?
- Are they overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving?
- Are they taking any medication that might affect driving safely?
- Have they received a ticket for impaired driving?
- Have you noticed them speeding or driving too slowly for no reason?
- Are they suffering from any illnesses that may affect driving skills?
Signs of Declining Driving Ability: Emotions
One subtle but important sign to look for in your senior parents is a change in their emotions around driving. Maybe they have increasingly frequent complaints about speed limit limits being too high on the interstate. Are they angry at other drivers for changing lanes too quickly? Or perhaps they are feeling some uneasiness about driving at night.
Signs of Declining Driving Ability: Tickets and Accidents
It may seem clear that moving violations or car accidents are a sign that it’s time for your elderly parent to stop driving, but because the frequency of these incidents can rise gradually, they may not be as obvious as you would expect. An elderly driver may also hide these incidents from their family out of embarrassment or a fear of seeming unfit to drive. Regardless of the explanation or the severity, an increase in the number of vehicle incidents is a good indicator that it’s time to talk to your senior parent about whether it’s time to stop driving. Car accidents are especially important to watch out for because they present higher risks of serious injury and fatality for older drivers.
How do I talk to my aging parents about giving up driving?
Thinking about giving up driving can be a difficult process, so try to be understanding and patient with your elderly driver. Focus the conversation on specific driving concerns and not on just their age. Start a dialogue of addressing these specific concerns and address why they are worrying you. Use examples of specific instances such as their fear of night driving or being uncomfortable with driving on the highway.
How can my elderly parents get around without a car?
Many seniors use ridesharing apps, such as Uber or Lyft. There may also be local or regional options available. In the Asheville area, for example, AVL Ride is a locally-owned option for transportation. There are also more traditional choices, such as taxis and public transportation systems, including services like Mountain Mobility. If your parents are living in a retirement community, there may be communal transportation provided to offsite events. These are safe and enjoyable ways to go out with friends without the risks of driving themselves.
What should we do with the extra car?
Can I sell the car?
Private car sales can be time-consuming and tiring. You have to think about advertising, public meetups, and dealing with disingenuous offers. Depending on the value of the car, your time and effort may not be worth the sale price.
Can I give the car away?
Giving a car away can feel a little tricky sometimes. On one hand, you’d like to help a person you know who needs transportation. On the other hand, the car may need current or future repairs that would make it more of a burden than a gift to that person. You might choose to donate your car to a charity organization. Often, organizations will contract with nationwide clearinghouses to auction or scrap your car and give a small percentage of the profits to NPR, Goodwill, or another nonprofit of your choice. Other nonprofit organizations, like Working Wheels, will use your donated car to directly help local families in need of reliable transportation.
Working Wheels can help make the transition away from driving a little bit easier.
Sometimes it’s easier for a senior to let go of their car when they know that it will have a new life with a family in need. Working Wheels repairs and recycles donated cars, transforming them into affordable, reliable transportation for working families in Western North Carolina. Organizations such as Helpmate, Homeward Bound, Habitat for Humanity, and many others refer their clients to Working Wheels for a reliable car with a 6-month warranty. The Working Wheels vehicle program helps open the doors to increased income, more time with family, and higher education for our neighbors in need in WNC. The donation is tax-deductible, the process is simple, and the impact is real.