Getting older doesn't necessarily mean a person's driving days are over. Every day more than 10,000 people turn 65 in the United States (Source: Census Bureau), and people are living longer healthier lives. However, family members and caregivers need to prepare for the day when it will be necessary to have "the talk" with an elderly driver about his or her driving abilities.
Discussing driving safety is an emotionally charged subject. Older drivers have a lifetime of driving experience and deeply value the independence and mobility that driving provides. The key to having "the talk" is not waiting until driving safety is an issue, but having periodic and open conversations before driving safety and health become a problem. But where do you start?
Get the Facts Before You Act
Before you initiate any conversation about driving safety or driver health, gather accurate and specific information through direct observation and using a vehicle monitoring tool like Bouncie to make sure your concerns are valid.
Start by riding along and observing the elderly driver behind the wheel during several trips and jotting down your positive and negative thoughts. Try to get a good sense of driving performance under a variety of road conditions by taking several trips at different times. You're looking for patterns of driving behavior warning signs (eg., signaling incorrectly, ignoring traffic signs, driving at inappropriate speeds, bad judgment) and any changes in driving ability due to health issues (eg., can't turn head adequately when backing up).
When you're not able to be an active observer, or if you live far away from your elderly driver, Bouncie can supplement your fact gathering by allowing you to monitor driving habits remotely while also keeping track of vehicle health and maintenance. For example, families and caregivers can access useful information and features such as:
Driving Habits - Bouncie delivers real-time insights into driving habits. By monitoring essential elements such as hard braking events, rapid acceleration, average speed and trip history, families can ensure their senior driver is still a safe and reliable driver.
Roadside Assistance - If an elderly driver ever needs help, Bouncie lets the driver or family members request roadside assistance and identify the exact location of the vehicle so help can arrive quickly.
Vehicle Location - Drivers can view their vehicle's location at any time. Plus, Bouncie can help families and caregivers create driving zones with Geo-Circles that alert them when elderly drivers enter or leave a designated area.
Vehicle Health and Diagnostics - Bouncie continually keeps track of vehicle health. If anything mechanical ever needs attention, Bouncie will send an alert, so that families and caregivers can manage the little things before they become big problems.
Vehicle information - Bouncie helps manage all the critical information about vehicles in one place and reminds drivers and family members when it's time to update and renew insurance policies, vehicle registrations, licenses and more.
Now You're Ready for A Conversation
Now that you armed yourself with information gathered from observations and Bouncie, it might be time to initiate a conversation with the elderly driver. There is no simple or easy way to address the subject, but approaching it with the idea that you want to help preserve the older driver’s personal freedom and mobility while ensuring safety on the road is a great start.
AAA recommends the following steps:
- Communicate openly and respectfully. Nobody wants to be called a dangerous driver, so avoid making generalizations about older drivers or jumping to conclusions about their skills or abilities behind the wheel. Be positive, be supportive and focus on ways to help keep them safely on the go.
- Avoid an intervention. Keep the discussion between you and the older driver you want to assist. Inviting the whole family to the conversation will alienate and possibly anger the person you’re trying to help.
- Make privacy a priority. Always ask for permission to speak with an older driver’s physician, friends or neighbors about the driver’s behavior behind the wheel.
- Never make assumptions. Focus on the facts available to you, such as a medical condition or medication regimen that might make driving unsafe. Do not accuse an older driver of being unsafe or assume that driving should be stopped altogether. Focus the conversation on safe driving and working together.
Successful family conversations begin with good preparation and are followed by effective and thoughtful communication. More than likely you’ll encounter some kind of negative reaction to these discussion, which is normal. Stay the course and remember that your role is help your elderly driver remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible.