Elderly Drivers Worry Aging Boomers
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) When Katherine Freund saw her 91-year-old stepfather turn left into oncoming traffic on a red arrow and drive onto the lawn while parking, she knew it was time for a talk. After she discussed the issue with her three siblings, the Freund family came up with a strategy.
"We planned it carefully," Freund said. "It was a relaxing weekend. My stepbrother took him for a walk outdoors so that my step father wouldn't feel cornered or constrained in any way. He didn't create a confrontation, which was helpful because the decision to stop driving is a process."
Senior driving will continue to be an issue as the 65 and older U.S. population increases from 47 million in 2015 to 72 million in 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means there will be more elderly drivers on the road.
Luckily, Freund's 89-year-old mother stopped driving four years ago.
"I couldn't avoid talking about driving with my mother because that would compromise her safety," Freund told MainStreet. "I told her we would all do whatever it took to help her be independent. If that meant finding a private driver, we'd find her a private driver."
A recent survey found only 23% of adult children of aging drivers are having conversations about the issue with their parents, and 38% think their parents will understand and be open to a discussion about giving up driving.
"Nine in ten boomer children of senior drivers think it is important to have driving conversations with their aging parents, but few are taking action and thus not addressing potential safety risks on the roads," said David Melton, driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance.
The Liberty Mutual Insurance study found that adult boomer children fear the outcome of a discussion about driving will be negative with 46% predicting their aging parents will be angry or hurt, 31% thinking their parents will say it is too hard to find other modes of transportation and 22% saying their parents will be more determined to keep driving.
With 17% of all U.S. traffic fatalities occurring to older individuals, concern about elderly drivers are valid, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. About 5,401 people aged 65 and older were killed and 185,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2011.
"Aging is an inevitable occurrence that has several implications," Melton said. "It's important to recognize that age can bring changes that impact one's driving abilities."
About 47% cited poor eyesight as a top concern associated with their senior parents' driving while 38% mentioned driving too slowly. Some 30% are concerned with poor hearing and 25% cited distracted driving.
Tips for Evaluating Elderly Drivers
- 1. Take a ride with your parents to observe their driving.
- 2. Look out for slow reaction times.
- 3. Check the car for dents and the driver's record for traffic tickets.
- 4. Discuss the topic early but have realistic expectations as it is likely that the matter will not be resolved with the first discussion.
- 5. Present alternate transportation solutions and be prepared to discuss options.
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet