During the holidays, many of us have the opportunity to spend more time with our loved ones who we do not regularly have the chance to visit. This often includes our parents and grandparents, who no longer live close to us. As you spend time together, are you worried about an older family member’s driving? We know this is an important topic for us to discuss with our loved ones at any time throughout the year, but it is of special importance as we focus on Older Driver Safety Awareness Week this month.

The event occurs during the first week of December each year, but the safety concerns for millions of families remain constant. We know that driving is a critical form of transportation for Older Americans to meet their daily needs, such as buying groceries, attending personal engagements, and keeping health care appointments. Driving also engenders a sense of independence and can keep seniors at home longer. What do we do, however, if our senior loved ones are unsafe on the road?

Unfortunately, senior driving statistics show a clear increase in accidents, injuries, and fatalities beginning at age 70. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 older drivers are killed and 794 are injured in vehicle crashes, on average, every day. The reasons are often due to a higher rate of acute medical conditions involving impairing medications, and declining vision, cognition, and physical ability. 

The bottom line is that driver safety is too important not to talk about it when you first have concerns. Let us share several suggestions with you right here that you may share with your aging loved ones: 

  • Learn to be prepared to recognize the issues surrounding driving
  • Avoid confrontation in an emotional setting with your loved ones
  • Stick to the issue at hand and do not let other concerns overlap
  • Focus on ways to support both safety and independence together

Talking about driver safety doesn’t automatically mean your senior loved ones are going to have their keys taken away. Instead, it means that you, as their loved one, is concerned enough about them. It also means that you are concerned about the safety of others, and want to help them arrive at healthy transportation solutions. Having an open conversation can be a great first step is to ensure everyone has the help and the support they need. 

Remember, whatever the outcome, the process starts with recognizing the value of driving to a senior loved one. The next step is to be sure to approach the conversation with an understanding of why they may be defensive, hurt, angry or withdrawn when talking about it. Health is always the prevailing concern, but remember, unsafe senior driving can also create a number of legal considerations as well. We encourage you not to wait to ask us your questions on this or any elder planning issue now, or any time throughout the year. We look forward to meeting with you.