Conversations about continued safe driving by an older adult can easily spark strong emotional reactions. Such discussions can undermine feelings of independence and competence in the older driver whose skill and competence are being questioned.
Because such conversations are difficult, most of us avoid them until we’re faced with a crisis. Many of us look to the older person’s physician or drivers’ licensing agency to help out. Although outside agents can play a part in the conversation, family and friends also play a major role in these difficult discussions. In addition, family will likely live with the consequences of these discussions for years to come.
Ideally, it would help to have these conversations when there was no crisis looming. But very few people want to plan ahead for the time when they must limit or stop driving their own car.
The American Medical Association and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offer tips for talking about driving safety with an older person. Download How To Help The Older Driver (PDF format) from The Physician's Guide for Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers (June 2003).
Among the top tips are:
- Make the goal of the conversation to preserve the independence and dignity of the older person.
- Take responsibility for your own concern by sharing how you feel, not how you want the driver to respond.
- Prepare for negative reactions such as anger.
Listen with respect and sensitivity to whatever feelings a person may have about the situation.