Driving Safety: When to Take the Keys Away
There may come a point when the changes of aging make it difficult and risky to keep driving. Some older drivers become increasingly nervous about their driving ability, and consequently become less mobile in the community. Some keep driving until an incident occurs – a scare, a minor accident, or worse – and then quit driving abruptly, without having made plans for what they will do without the car.
And others are in denial, refusing to face up to limitations until family members or the department of licensing step in. It doesn't have to be that way. When you first begin to have concerns about driving ability, that is the time to begin planning a post-driving strategy. Think of this as just another aging challenge to be addressed, and then use your best problem-solving skills to keep your loved one active and mobile.
The first thing to do when discussing driving safety is to add up all the costs of owning and maintaining a car. Car payments, insurance, repairs, gasoline, and parking fees should all go into the calculation. For most people, the total is considerable. Think of those dollars as money available for alternative transportation.
Once you have calculated the "transportation allowance," begin to investigate the alternatives:
• Bus or rapid transit
• Taxi cabs
• Carpooling with family, friends or volunteers
• Special transportation for seniors and people with disabilities
With this kind of planning, many seniors lose their anxiety over giving up driving. It still may not be easy, but having a workable plan for getting around is a major step forward. If a loved one is resisting giving up driving, be creative in your approach. You might try suggesting that your loved one:
• Leave the car in the garage for a while and see how he or she gets along not using it;
• Set a trial period during which your loved one will try out transportation options;
• Consider giving the car as a gift to a favorite charity or to a grandchild;
• Investigate selling the car and setting the money aside for a transportation fund.
Help your loved one make a plan for being a non-driver if that time comes. Be proactive; don't wait for circumstances to make decisions for you. Giving your loved one an extra margin of safety is the right thing to do for other drivers on the road, and it can, above all, be a gift to your loved one, yourself and family!