Tips for Talking to Aging Drivers

Tips for talking to aging drivers


Older drivers are often some of the safest drivers on the road as they do not take unnecessary risks and self-restrict to compensate for changes to their vision, reflexes or other age-related concerns.

However, not all aging drivers may recognize the need for self-restricting and others may need to stop driving altogether due to medical problems.

It can be difficult in this situation to know how to talk to someone about limiting their driving or giving up their privileges.

If it becomes necessary for you to speak up, here are some tips to make the conversation go more smoothly:

Start early

Talking to aging drivers about restricting or giving up their driving privileges should happen before a real problem arises. If you wait, the individual is likely to become far more defensive than if you were to sit down and have a conversation about driving prior to it being an issue.

Be sensitive

Driving represents freedom and independence.
It allows them to participate in social activities.
Keep in mind how you might feel if you were asked to give up driving.

Focus on safety

Explain why you are concerned, and discuss safety for them and other drivers.

Don’t lie or use trickery

Lying about a license being suspended or hiding the driver’s keys is not recommended
because it will break the trust between you and the individual, and usually only serves as a band-aid to the bigger problem.
Often people are anxious about losing their license because they worry about loneliness, loss of independence,
or an inability to fulfill their basic needs(getting groceries, going banking, attending church, etc.).
If the driver will not listen, talk with the physician or Driver’s License Division about the options for retesting for or revoking a license.

Offer alternatives

It is important to offer transportation alternatives whether it is public transportation,
shuttles from the senior center or if you offer to give the individual a ride when necessary.
Coming up with a plan will help put the individual at ease about the future.
They need to know that giving up their license does not mean giving up their entire way of living.

Avoid demands

Demands often result in people becoming defensive and pushing back.
The best way to get the individual to make the right decision is to focus on listening.
Find out what concerns they have about giving up their driver’s license, and ask questions about what might put their mind to ease.

Explain the benefits of not driving

By not driving, the person will be saving money on gas, insurance, vehicle registration, driver’s license fees and general vehicle maintenance.
They also will no longer have to worry about driving in inclement weather (especially North Dakota winters).

Use specific examples

Bring up details and first-hand accounts of times when the individual’s driving has caused concern (i.e. difficulty in an intersection, merging into traffic, left hand turns).
Also mention any accidents or behaviors that may signal it’s time to retire from driving.

Take the focus off the senior

No one likes to feel criticized. Some older drivers may respond better if you put the situation in the context of other loved ones.
Ask if they would feel comfortable driving their grandchildren or mention how it would affect the family if they were ever hurt in an accident.
Also, a senior may be more likely to give up a car if there is a young member of the family in need of a vehicle.

Talk to the treating physician

The healthcare provider is going to be able to offer an objective assessment of the older driver’s abilities,
and may be able to offer advice on how to restrict driving to balance safety and independence.
The physician may require an evaluation which may show the driver possible weaknesses in ability.
Also, the health care provider may support you in suggesting that it is time to give up driving.