Having the Tough Conversation with Your Elderly Loved One About Driving

Nervous elderly grey-haired woman driving a car, Having the Tough Conversation with Your Elderly Loved One About Driving

There are any number of risk factors for all of us on Atlanta’s roads. One of these risks that is often overlooked is elderly drivers who should not be behind the wheel anymore. As the American population grows older, drivers who may not have the sight, motor skills and/or cognitive ability to safely operate a vehicle are becoming more common.

Not only is the population growing older, but thanks to the marvels of modern medicine, Americans are living longer than ever before and can have active and productive lives well into their Golden Years. For those of us with elderly loved ones who still live independently, the question of whether they should be driving can be a constant source of stress and conflict. After all, your loved ones will likely be unwilling to surrender the autonomy afforded by driving a car, and upsetting them is probably the last thing you want to do.

Unfortunately, too many of us wait until after disaster strikes before we have the tough conversations about driving, living alone and other issues. When older people are involved in car accidents, the risk for injury is much higher than accidents involving younger people. It is no secret that our bodies become more fragile as we age. When a traumatic injury occurs, such as in a car wreck, it is much more difficult for older bodies to recover, which can lead to severe disability – or even death.

Because of the dangers of driving for elderly people, it is crucially important for you to speak with your loved ones if you believe they cannot drive safely anymore. It will likely be one of the most difficult conversations you will have with them, but it is better than a call from the authorities telling you that your loved one has been in a wreck.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash, our team is here to help. At Scholle Law, we have recovered over $75 million on behalf of our clients. We know what it takes to get the compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call us at (866) 592-1296 for a free, no-obligation consultation with a car accident lawyer in Duluth.

Signs Your Loved One Should Not Be Driving Anymore

Quick Facts About Senior Drivers infographic

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If you have older loved ones, there are many questions about their well-being that will, at some point, need to be discussed. Should they move to an assisted living facility? Do they need a live-in nurse? Are they able to safely drive themselves around? The discussions around each of these questions may be incredibly difficult, as you are essentially asking if your loved one can take care of themselves like they once did.

While we cannot provide all of the answers you may be looking for, we can help you figure out if your elderly loved one should no longer be driving. Some of the signs you should look out for include:

  • Signs of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Loss of sight and/or hearing, which are vital for safely operating a vehicle
  • Hesitancy or fear of driving at night
  • Notable difficulty concentrating while driving or any other time
  • Delayed reaction times, especially when they are driving
  • Minor dents and dings on their car that are unexplained
  • Traffic tickets that seem to be adding up

Though it may seem obvious, the best way to determine if your loved one should be driving is actually riding in the car with them and observing their technique. Do they react slowly to obstacles in the road? Are they drifting, or driving exceptionally slowly or too fast? Do they often run over curbs when they turn or reverse? Perhaps most importantly, do you feel unsafe sitting in the passenger seat?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to talk to them about no longer driving.

How Do I Actually Have “The Conversation”?

Ever since the early 1900s, being able to hit the open road has been put in the same category as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: an inalienable American right. Telling your loved one they should no longer be behind the wheel may elicit a response similar to telling them they no longer have free speech. However, this may be one of the most important decisions in your – and their – life. So how do you approach it?

First, be patient and start early. Springing this issue on your loved one can have the opposite effect you intended, especially if you are abrupt or forceful in your approach. Instead, start the conversation early. Tell them why you are concerned and about the risks associated with their continued driving. Explain that their being on the road is not only a danger to themselves, but to other drivers and pedestrians as well. Perhaps more convincingly, explain how a car wreck would have far reaching effects on your family and your loved one’s friends, especially if your loved one is injured or killed.

Take the Decision Out of Your Own Hands

If you are on the fence about whether to have this conversation, accompany them to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to re-take the driving test. This technique is almost always a win-win: Either they will pass the test and be able to keep driving, alleviating your concerns, or they will fail and the DMV will take their license without you making the decision. However, if they do manage to pass the test, and you still think they should not be driving, convincing your loved one they still should not be driving can become much more difficult.

Another option is to accompany your loved one to their next doctor’s appointment. Talk to their doctor or specialist about your concerns with your loved one still driving. Depending on your loved one’s demeanor, you may need to “sneak” a conversation with the doctor so you are not interrupted. If the doctor believes your loved one should no longer be driving, they can submit a Request for Driver Review to the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS). This request can also be submitted by a non-anonymous relative, the court, law enforcement officer, judge, or concerned citizen.

No matter how this discussion starts, be firm in your stance. It is easy to let emotions and your loved one’s reactions change your mind about the entire issue. Perhaps there is some room for negotiation, such only driving during the day when the roads are dry. However, if you believe they cannot drive safely no matter the conditions, you need to let them know that. While your loved one may be angry at you for implying or explaining that they should no longer be driving, it is worth it if it keeps them safe.

Of course, convincing your loved one to stop driving can be made easier if you also discuss the alternatives to driving. In Atlanta, relying on public transportation is not the most effective option. But ridesharing options can be a great solution. You can also work out a rotating schedule with your family members to make sure your loved one has a ride when they need it.

If Your Loved One Was in a Car Wreck, We Can Help

Our final piece of advice is to remember that, no matter how angry your loved one may be, their safety is more important. Remind your loved one that not driving is not the same as not being independent. Show them how to use Uber or Lyft on their phone, and they may eventually realize that being driven is better than driving, especially in and around Atlanta!

If your elderly loved one is involved in a wreck, the aftermath can be devastating. While our team cannot go back in time and prevent the crash from happening, we can help you and your family determine what your next steps should be.

Scholle Law has the experience, skills and compassion to walk you through every step of the lawsuit process. Contact us online or call us at (866) 592-1296 for a free, no-obligation consultation with a skilled Atlanta car accident attorney.