OUR VIEW: Don’t delay talk on hanging up car keys
OUR VIEW: Don’t delay talk on hanging up car keys Sunday Sep 2, 2018 at 3:00 AM
When it comes to personal independence, most people would put the ability to drive toward the top of the list.
But according to a AAA study, more than 80 percent of older drivers outlive the age when they’re capable of driving safely by seven to 10 years. And because of that fear of losing independence, the study says, very few – just 17 percent – discuss driving issues with their doctor or family. Of the small percentage of families who do have a conversation, 15 percent do so after a crash or traffic infraction has occurred – which could be too late.
That’s why you need to have the conversation now. And gently.
“Most of us plan for our retirement from working, but very few plan for retirement from driving,” said Ed Welsh, general manager for the Central Region for AAA New York. “We should.”
But telling a parent, good friend or any loved one that the time has come when they might want to consider hanging up the car keys can be touchy.
“The right time to stop driving varies for everyone,” Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety, said recently. “This research shows that older drivers can be hesitant to initiate conversations about their driving capabilities, so it is important that families encourage them to talk early and often about their future behind the wheel. With early discussion and proper planning, elderly drivers may extend their time on the road.”
Broaching the subject should be done very carefully and with sensitivity to how such a drastic change will affect the person’s life.
The first thing, Welsh said, is to put one person in the family in charge of the discussion. The worst thing you can do is “gang up” on a parent or whomever because that could immediately put them on the defense.
Also, use facts when making your case. Point out past accidents they may have had, medications that might affect their judgment or other conditions that could hamper the person’s ability to drive safely.
You might also suggest that the person begin backing off a bit by driving only during certain hours, Welsh said.
“Maybe they’re best in the morning,” he said, “say, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., but they become tired in the afternoon. So they limit their driving to those times.”
And often, night driving should be eliminated since vision is more limited.
Once you identify the safest times to drive, monitor it. Talk, too, about alternative transportation – Uber, Lyft, bus, cab or otherwise. That can make the transition more tolerable.
So how do you know if you or someone you love needs to consider “retiring” from driving?
“We have tools online to do an assessment, ” Welsh said. Go to the website (https://seniordriving.aaa.com/) and do it.”
It might save your life, other lives or the life of someone you love.
Statistics bear that out. In New York, according to preliminary data from the AAA, last year there were more than 52,196 crashes involving senior (age 65-plus) drivers, including 210 fatal crashes and 19,994 injury crashes. The 52,196 crashes were the most this decade; 2016 was next closest, with 51,047.
The most common contributing factor to senior driver crashes: Failure to yield right-of-way. That contributed to 10,837 crashes.
So don’t wait. If someone you know and love is facing driving issues – or you think they might be facing driving issues – talk about it. There are “red flags,” AAA points out, such as crashes, scrapes on the car, new medical diagnoses or worsening health conditions.
Yes, it’s important that families have a plan to help keep the older driver on the road for as long as possible.
But do it safely. This really is a matter of life and death.
Tips for having “The Talk”
• Be positive and supportive in your conversations.
• Avoid generalizations.
• Do not jump to conclusions about an older driver’s skills or abilities.
• Speak one-on-one. Keep the discussion between you and the older driver. Inviting the whole family to the conversation can create feelings of alienation or anger.
• Focus on the facts. Stick to information you know, such as a medical condition or medication regimen that might make driving unsafe. Do not accuse an older driver of being unsafe or assume that driving should be stopped altogether.