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When is it a good time to talk to an older adult about driving safety?

This answer is based on a publication and research conducted by The Hartford and MIT AgeLab:

Ideally, the first conversations about safety should occur long before driving becomes a problem. Early, occasional and candid conversations establish a pattern of open dialogue and can reinforce driving safety issues without the strain of asking someone to change his or her driving behaviors. Discussion at this point allows time for the older adult to consider his or her driving skills and make appropriate modifications.

Here are some conversation openers: 

“Health and safety first.” When driving is placed within the larger context of other safety concerns, it may take the personal edge off the conversation.

“Driving isn’t what it used to be.” Family members of any age can find common ground by talking about stressful road conditions such as faster, heavier traffic along with other drivers talking and texting on mobile phones. Reviewing safe driving habits for everyone makes sense, especially when discussed in the context of needing to adjust to these road conditions. This can raise the question of what to do if the adjustment is slow or extremely challenging for an older adult.

“Did you hear about that car accident in the news today?” Use news reports to inform, not scare, older persons. Headline news about accidents that involve older and younger drivers can provide an opportunity to explore your family member’s attitudes about unfit drivers and the question of who is responsible for helping them decide when to relinquish the keys.

“When did Granddad stop driving? How did that come about?” This opener may provide an opportunity to reveal personal feelings about driving and family intervention.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.