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Older Drivers: 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? It’s OK to be concerned, and there are ways you can help.
Safe Driving Tips for Seniors
Talking to your parent about your concerns and how they can more safely drive is a great first step, The following safety tips may help your parents or senior driver family member alleviate concerns you have 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.
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.
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.
Avoid Distracted Driving for Seniors
Be sure to discuss the dangers of distracted driving with seniors before they get behind the wheel. Even a few moments of looking down at the phone could endanger both the driver and others on the road. Take the time to teach seniors how to enable the Do Not Disturb feature on their smartphones so incoming calls and texts won't interrupt their focus when driving.
Car Features for Older Drivers
Not all cars are built the same. Some are a little more feature-friendly for older drivers and do a much better job of accommodating physical limitation. Do a little car shopping with your parents and consider the following so they can be safer behind the wheel:
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 and whether they can reach the steering wheel comfortably. 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 them focus more on the road.
Blind spot detection
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 or you’re worried about their ability to drive, share the following alternative transportation 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.
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 parents’ 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.
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.
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 their 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 could maintain their independence longer!
And if your parents are still behind the wheel, make sure they understand their car insurance coverages.
Talk to an agent today and gain peace of mind knowing what matters most is protected.