5 Tips for Talking to Aging Parents About Their Driving

Talking to your senior-aged parents about hanging up their car keys for good can be one of the most uncomfortable conversations to have. But, when their safety depends on it, it’s a tough conversation worth having.

To help the chat go a little more smoothly, we’ve compiled a list of 5 things you should do before or during your discussion with your parents about their driving.

1. Pay Attention to the Signs

Don’t ignore the little things that signal there may be a problem. For example, if your parent’s car has picked up some unexplained scratches or dents lately, that may be a sign that their reaction time, eyesight, or hearing is diminishing and causing a problem when they are behind the wheel. To know for sure, you’ll need to take the next step.

2. Ride & Document

Go for a ride with your parent and let them drive. Keep a mental record of any problematic driving habits and write them down once you are alone. In particular, note things like failing to stop at a light or stop sign, having trouble changing lanes or parking, mistaking the gas pedal for the brake pedal. Sharing actual examples of problems you have observed is more effective than speaking in general.

3. Recommend a Refresher Class

Asking your parents to give up driving without giving them an opportunity to improve their driving skills could be putting the cart before the horse. Come to the discussion prepared to tell them about classes like the the 55 Alive Driver Refresher Course offered by the Canada Safety Council.

4. Keep It Casual, Not Confrontational

Unless your parent’s driving is at a critical point where an accident is imminent if they continue driving, avoid a dramatic intervention. Instead, share your observations in a non-judgemental way and ask them if they have noticed the same changes in their driving skills.

5. Offer Alternatives to Driving

Talk to your parents about their options for getting around without driving. If public transit is a reasonable option where your parents live, let them know how convenient it would be for them to get to the places they want to go. You can also help set up scheduled rides with family members and friends.

Most importantly, keep in mind that driving is a symbol of freedom and independence for your parents–making it hard for them to give it up as they age. Approaching the conversation with compassion and understanding will go a long way in letting your parents know you care about their safety, not about taking away their self-reliance.   

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