How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Driving

Oct 14, 2022 2 min read

Remember how we spent our teen years coveting our driver’s license and our own set of wheels? We often equate driving with a sense of independence or freedom. So we can understand why it would be hard to hang up the keys later in life. Unfortunately, having certain medical conditions or taking certain medications can make driving unsafe. If you suspect that your aging parent is having difficulty on the road, it’s time to have a serious conversation about it. This type of talk isn’t easy, so we’ve put together some guidelines to help.

Have the talk before there’s an issue

If your parents are still driving safely, make a plan for down the road. Talk to Mom and Dad now about how they’d like you to handle a situation should they develop dementia or another illness that impairs their driving ability. You can even write up an agreement (formal or informal) and sign it together. The contract should express what factors might signify unsafe driving, like a decrease in reaction time, an increase in distracted driving, getting lost or disoriented in familiar places, a sudden habit of fender benders and racking up citations for traffic violations. The agreement should also include how the decision will be made. Will your parent agree to trust your judgment?

Offer alternative transportation solutions

The loss of independence isn’t the only concern when someone stops driving. Your parent may fear isolation from friends or the community. When you have the talk about relinquishing the wheel, offer viable alternatives for getting around. Perhaps you’re able to help your parent run errands or get to activities. Or maybe rideshare apps are an option, public transit will work, or your community may have transport resources for seniors. Present as many ways as you can of keeping Mom or Dad out and about and enjoying life. A relocation to an area with increased walkability could be a fun choice.

Go through an assessment with your parent

If your parent is resistant to giving up driving, you’ll need to do some convincing. Your mom or dad might not understand there’s a problem. Approach the conversation with compassion and express your worry and love. Then ask your parent to do a self-assessment. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a helpful checklist regarding vision, physical fitness and reaction time. It also provides the info that some conditions may make someone less self-aware. With this in mind, the site includes a list of questions seniors should ask themselves to gauge self-awareness regarding driving ability. This information may help you encourage your parent to heed your advice or the recommendation of a medical professional to turn over the keys.

What to do if your talk fails

If your parent refuses to retire from driving, you can make an anonymous call to the DMV that someone is an unsafe driver. State procedures vary, but in many cases, the DMV will require the person in question to take a retest in order to renew a license when it expires. In some states, physicians are required to make reports to the DMV about patients with specific medical conditions. You can always ask your parent’s doctor to talk to mom or dad about driving safety, as well. Your parent might be more open to having the discussion with a medical professional.

Making Sure Everyone Stays Safe

No matter the life stage, having car insurance for every driver in your family will provide you some peace of mind. Farm Bureau can help set you up with coverage that will protect you wherever the road takes you.

Want to learn more?

Contact a local FBFS agent or advisor for answers personalized to you.