Figuring out how and when to continue driving safely or deciding to “…leave the driving to us” is huge. While it’s a natural evolution to stop driving, it is often a challenge. However, the challenge can be more manageable than you may think.
Here are some considerations in deciding for yourself or setting up conversations with mom or dad.
This generation defined independence by getting a driver’s license, going to the drive-in movies, and occasionally “parking” afterwards. Then came the annual family road trips followed by years of shopping, carpooling, and all the resulting drive-thru dining.
First take stock of the current landscape in contrast to the norms of the 1950’s and 60’s. Think how the focus on driving as the definition of independence has evolved dramatically, especially in the last decade.
Just ask any sixteen-year-old today what they’d choose if forced to pick between a driver’s license and their phone…
Consider all of today’s forces and factors reshaping our lives:
The necessity for each of us to have our own car for individual transportation simply isn’t what it was 50 years ago.
1 – Mention you heard how you can get a discount on your auto insurance with a driver skills refresher course. Do the 6-hour course yourself and share the savings realized and surprises you experienced. This would include brushing up your skills and rediscovering some of the road rules you’d forgotten. And the “new” laws you weren’t even aware of i.e. bike lanes, round-a-bouts, crosswalks, and “hands free”. Our Driver’s Ed was in the mid ‘70’s after all~
Imagine Abbott and Costello’s writers laughing writing an episode about driving and “Hands Free”!
2 – Find a reason to invite mom along and take a trip with Uber or Lyft when going to Jr.’s ball game or a movie or shopping when your car is in for the overdue oil change.
3 – Ask if driving has become stressful without any agenda to begin a “conversation”. Just listen and mentally note issues for segues at a later time to discuss: stress of traffic, finding and reading directions, changing lanes, brazen pedestrians, bright headlights in their eyes, icy windshield, freezing cold or blistering hot seats, difficulty reading signs in the dark or rain, simply getting in and out of the car, Jr. asking to borrow the car!, etc. And of course, figuring out how to turn the dashboard clock to Daylight Savings time.
4 – Pencil out estimates of their entire car ownership cost: loan/lease payment, insurance, gas, registration, parking, maintenance, washes, impulse gas station purchases, and repairs. $6,000 annual average cost is not unheard-of. Divide that by the 10 times a month(if that) when a car is the one and only alternative and you’re at $50 per round trip. That’s nearly double the average of an Uber or Taxi fare. Then there’s the value of supporting a non-profit’s mission with a car donation if that is of interest.
5 – Do your own ride-along and mentally note the hazards surrounding your driver. Think less about their lack of driving ability and more about their very natural(and common) lessened reflexes for avoiding the increased hazards on today’s roads with: increased traffic volumes, more frequent and prevalent road construction, the increase in aggressive drivers, road rage incidents, and measurably narrower parking spaces. This may give them purchase in self-determining their desire to plan other ways to get around.
6 – Ask how their friends and relatives are doing and make note of those who are having related difficulties and successes for mentioning in later conversations.
This is notable work undoubtedly. But consider the value of approaching this early on, gently and with their empowerment in mind. Whether it goes along without a hitch or not, it may help to lessen the strain of moving beyond the car for their independence.
Healthcare – Physicians, particularly geriatricians, opticians, occupational and vocational therapists are more aware of these issues and the opportunities their position affords to broach the subject and tend to patients’ needs in formalized ways. Most notably, evaluations including driving related medical conditions and medications.
Insurance – Carriers are offering volumes of information and programs on proactively handling the issue with research, driver evaluations, services, special discounts, and guidance.
[THE HARTFORD – 5 PDFs on Senior Driving Safety with worksheets for drafting action plans]
Government – Federal agencies have compiled research and developed resources for seniors and families to improve and safeguard driving for older adult drivers.
Centers for Disease Control
– Local governments have developed greater transportation services and supports particularly around medical appointments, employment needs and driver evaluations.
– DAKOTA CO – transportation resource guide
– ANOKA CO – transit unit
– CARVER CO – transit
– WASHINGTON CO – transportation
– Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety – offers additional support service to family members concerned for an older family member’s driving. Written request submission required.
Auto Industry – Manufacturers and related after-market businesses are loading vehicles with safety equipment and technology to adapt to and protect aging drivers.