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When should grandma or grandpa give up driving?

Posted at 2:52 PM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 16:52:09-04

It's a question a lot of Americans face, and it's a complicated one: When is it time for grandma or grandpa to stop driving?

We asked Personal Injury Attorney Craig Swapp for some guidelines about when to have that conversation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are more than 28 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in the United States, and many of them suffer from what the CDC calls "age-related decreases in vision, cognitive functions and physical impairments" that make it difficult and even dangerous for them to get behind the wheel.

As long as they keep successfully renewing their license they can legally keep driving.  For a lot of seniors, it eventually comes down to their own safety and the safety of the general public.  Swapp says the statistics show senior drivers have more fatalities per mile driven than any age group except teenagers.  And while younger drivers crash more, the crashes involving older drivers are more likely to be fatal.

So how do you know when it's time to reconsider a family member's ability to drive safely?  Swapp offers these guidelines:

-Damage to the car - are there new nicks or dings in the vehicle?
- Family/friends observations - discreetly ask family or friends who frequently ride with the senior. Have they noticed a decrease in safe driving?
- Ask to be a passenger - take the opportunity to be a passenger while the senior drives. Monitor their reactions to traffic lights, road signs, pedestrians, and other motorists. Pay attention to whether they drift into other lanes, struggle to use the correct signals, or react slowly to unexpected situations.

If it looks like grandma or grandpa need to stop driving, Swapp says you'll need to convince them that it's time to stop driving.  "There's no easy way to do it. One survey found 39 percent of respondents reported that the hardest conversation to have with their aging parent is not finances but elderly parents handing over their car keys," Swapp says.  He says to be kind, be understanding and make sure the senior understands you're bringing this up out of love.  Make sure to suggest ways they'll still be able to get where they need to go.  Go over a plan with them on how to still run errands, make it to doctors' appointments, visit friends and family etc.

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