Reader Question: How do I talk to my senior parents about driving?
Answer: This can be a tough issue to tackle. The Sunshine State leads the nation in traffic fatalities involving at least one driver over 65, and the highest number of fatal crashes with drivers 90 or older. Many seniors are cautious, excellent drivers. But aging affects memory and decision-making processes, our vision and hearing, reaction times and other abilities needed for safe driving. Seniors and their families routinely struggle with this important question, since a car in America means independence and mobility. The best approach is to initiate a calm, caring conversation BEFORE an unsafe driving situation occurs.
A quick Google search turns up great resources to keep older drivers on the road- SAFELY. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes a tool called “My Mobility Plan” that guides seniors through an assessment of safety in their home and on the road. They also produce “My Neighborhood: A Plan to Stay Mobile in My Neighborhood,” with various driving scenarios. AARP Driver Safety, AAA and the American Occupational Therapy Association teamed up to create a program at CarFit.org, where older adults can see how well their vehicles “fit” them. Driver refresher courses by AARP (in person or online) can lower your insurance premiums once you pass the course!
There now are nearly 4 million licensed Florida drivers older than 65. Once over 80, seniors must only pass a vision screening to renew their license for another six years. What can you do about unsafe driving by a senior in your life? In Florida, you can use “Medical Reporting Form” 72190, to initiate a doctor certification of their ability to drive. Once submitted, the identity of the person making the report is protected.
Taking the keys away from an aging parent is difficult — for everyone involved. Pick up a free copy of “My Mobility Plan” at One Senior Place and take the first step to keeping your parents (and others) safe.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to AskOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751- 6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com. Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager for One Senior Place.