The time to have "the talk" about giving up the driver's license is not when your parents are a danger. And, when the time does come there needs to be an agreed to plan.

An 84 year old woman recently crashed her car through the front window of a local 7-11 sending staff and customers scrambling for safety.  The woman said she confused the accelerator for the brake.  It happens more than you might think.  Fortunately no one was injured.  That is not always the case.

Statistics clearly show that most accidents are caused by younger, often distracted drivers.  Older drivers tend to drive less and for shorter distances.  They are also less likely to be distracted by cell phones or radios, etc.

There are however, too many accidents that occur when people are reluctant to hand over the keys and cut up the driver's license.  Older folks who have lived long and clean lives face hurting themselves, or worse, hurting someone else. It must be incredibly difficult to face your mortality and admit that you are not able to do the things you took for grated not that long ago, like driving. But, that day faces all of us.

It is a mistake to wait until a person is at the of point becoming a danger to broach the idea that perhaps it's time to think about giving up driving.  You may find yourself dealing with someone in deep denial, not ready yet to accept limits on their ability to perform what used to be routine tasks.  We are reluctant to have that discussion for fear of hurting a family member's feelings.  In the meantime  the inevitable is delayed and the danger increases.

The time to discuss important issues such as surrendering the driver's license and even future living arrangements is when mom and dad are younger and able to accept that change is inevitable.  Make an agreement for recognizing when the time has come and have a plan.

You can't tell mom or dad to stop driving and then leave them to fend for themselves.  It is a daunting task to care for elderly relatives but, decisions about living and driving are a lot easier if they know they can count on transportation to doctors, supermarkets or just for a Sunday ride in the country.   They have to know that you will not take away their independence and then abandon them.

Candid discussions now about issues related to aging can make those decisions considerably easier later on.  Knowing that they will not be left high and dry will make the decision to park the car for good much easier when the time comes.  No one deserves to be left alone with no way to get where they need to go.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


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