You might notice it when you go out shopping for presents in December. The roads are icy and your mom or dad is behind the wheel. But instead of their usual confidence in the driver’s seat, they are timid. It makes you nervous.The roads aren’t that bad right now, but if they get worse and your parents can’t handle them – what happens? What if there is a major snowstorm? Should your parents be driving at all this winter?If you feel this way, it might be a good idea to talk to them about giving up the keys - temporarily – during the winter. The idea is to “suspend” their licenses while it’s icy out on the roads.
Jacob Nelson, the director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research with AAA, says you should focus on safety and that’s how adult children can bring this subject up with their parents.
“Say: ‘You could not only hurt yourself, but you could hurt other people. What happens if you hurt someone else and they sue you? That could destroy you financially. We want to protect you and protect your retirement,’” he said. “This isn’t about getting older people off the road, it’s about maintaining safety.”
Having this type of conversation is not easy – especially if you’re trying to do it during the holiday season, but Nelson says if you start talking about it sooner, before it becomes an emergency, it helps.
“The earlier this conversation happens, the better,” he said. “‘Hey Mom and Dad, you’re fine right now, but can we talk a little bit about the future?’ That way, Mom and Dad can contribute to that plan and they play a role in how the situation will be handled.”
The conversation does not have to be a confrontation. It’s important not to decide that it’s going to be an argument before it happens.
“It should not be an intervention. You don’t want the whole family to gang up on Mom or Dad,” Nelson said. “Remember to always keep the conversation on mobility. ‘How can we keep you going to the places you need to go, but do so in a way that may or may not include driving?’ If the focus is not on stripping independence away, it’s much easier to have.”
Any adult child who decides that Mom or Dad should stop driving, either temporarily during the winter or permanently, should prepare for the life changes that involve the whole family. Be sure to plan ahead and find out what resources are available. What are you going to do with the added responsibility of having to shuttle Mom and Dad around? What if you don’t live close enough to help?
“You need to do your homework in advance so you can lay out what the options are for Mom and Dad,” Nelson said.
Remember, the icy season is dangerous for any drivers. Approximately 5.25 million car accidents happen every year in the U.S. and about 24 percent of them are due to road conditions – that’s more than 1.2 million. Nelson says older drivers are also among the most vulnerable. Their age makes them less able to withstand the forces of a crash. If they do survive, it is harder for them to recover. They often have underlying medical conditions like a heart or lung disease and the injuries caused by a crash can often exacerbate those conditions, transforming it into a life-threatening situation.sav“Older people are more likely to be killed in car crashes, but that doesn’t have anything to do with their performance behind the wheel. It has everything to do with their health status, their fragility,” Nelson said. “There is a need for caregivers of older adult drivers to work with them, to plan ahead to the day where they may need to stop driving.”For more on the free programs AAA offers to help older drivers, you can visit seniordriving.aaa.com.
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