Older Drivers: Tips for Helping Your Parents Manage the Road
For many people driving means independence. But aging can make driving a little more challenging. Are you noticing your parents aren’t physically or mentally responding as quickly as they used to? Or, are you concerned their medical conditions are having an impact on their skills behind the wheel? The following safety tips might help them eliminate or alleviate concerns and maintain their confidence on the road.
Avoid night driving. Cataracts and other vision impairments make driving at dusk or in the dark difficult. For increased safety, have your parents avoid driving at night.
Avoid freeway or interstate driving. Busy roads can involve complex driving skills and quick decisions. Help your parents establish alternate routes on roads with less traffic.
Skip the rush. Stay away from the frantic pace of heavy traffic. This can vary with your location, for some it’s work-related while other communities have weekend traffic jams. Adjust accordingly and feel safer with less traffic around.
Avoid bad weather. Why risk driving when the roads are bad? If you live nearby, help your parents prepare for bad weather by making sure they have what they need. This way they won’t be tempted to run errands when the roads are slick.
Consider the car. Not all cars are built the same. Some do a much better job of accommodating physical limitation. Do a little car shopping with your parents and consider the following:
- Is it comfortable? If the car sits too low or too high, it might be difficult for your parent to get in and out. They’ll also want to check how they feel in the seat. You don’t want any joint, back or muscle problems bothered by long drives. For the most comfort on the road, look for a suspension that’s tuned for comfort instead of dynamics.
- Pick an automatic transmission vehicle. It’s easier to drive than a manual transmission car, letting focus more on the road.
- If you’re purchasing a newer vehicle, look for one with a backup camera. It’ll make it easier for them to see what’s behind the car without straining their back and neck muscles. Check to make sure the screen is large enough to see clearly.
- For additional comfort, have them drive a car with blind spot detection. This technology is helpful if someone has neck problems or mobility issues.
- Pre-collision braking is a great feature that senses when the car in front is too close and stops before there’s an accident.
What Are Some Alternatives to Driving?
If your parents are no longer able to drive, share the following options with them. Be sensitive as it might take some getting used to. You may have to help until it becomes familiar, but they’ll benefit from being able to get around on their own.
Cab or taxi. This is the old standby for good reason — a cab is a great way to get from place to place. Check with your community to see if there is a taxi discount or voucher program. Many cities, organizations and even the cab companies themselves offer some assistance for elderly people on fixed incomes.
Rideshare. Today rideshare options, like Uber, Lyft and others, offer rides with reduced rates. If your parent is great with technology, this is an easy fit.
Senior driving programs. Does your parent’s community or church offer assistance? These programs are very common and typically rely on volunteer drivers, so they can offer free or low-fee services.
Bus. The bus can be the solution if your parents live in a city with public transportation. Learning the bus routes may be challenging, but you can help them the first few times they ride it to ease the confusion.
Walking. If they’re close enough to their destination, walking is excellent choice! It’s great for their health and gets them where they need to go.
There’s a big gap between discovering some challenges behind the wheel and not being able to drive anymore. Learning to adapt driving habits to fit abilities helps make the road safer for everyone. And easing into driving alternatives makes the transition even more gradual and acceptable. With these tips, your parents are able to maintain their independence longer!