Study: Boomers Fear Talk With Parents Over Diminished Driving Skills

According to a recent survey, baby boomers are more concerned about their elderly parents' diminishing driving skills than they are about a family member driving drunk. But talking to their parents about their driving as they get older is difficult.

The survey, commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance, polled 1,000 boomers and found that more than half worry about their parents' driving, but less than a quarter have spoken to them about it, while 29 percent say they're "likely to avoid the conversation entirely," reported. That's despite the fact that, according to the American Medical Association, motor vehicles are a leading factor in injury-related death among people age 65 or older. Per mile driven, the fatality rate for drivers 85 or older is nine times greater than that for drivers age 25 to 69, it reports.

Boomers in the study identified their major concerns about their parents' driving, including poor eyesight, listed by 47 percent of respondents; driving too slow (38 percent); poor hearing (30 percent) and distracted driving (25 percent). Meanwhile, their consternation about talking to their parents stems from fears that they'll be angry or hurt (46 percent), that they'll say it's too difficult to find other transportation (31 percent) or that they'll be even more determined to continue driving (22 percent).

But having that conversation, however uncomfortable it may be, is increasingly important as the U.S. elderly population continues to grow. The report notes that the number of people age 65 or older is expected to increase to 72 million by 2030 from 47 million just 15 years earlier — a more than 53 percent spike. The American Occupational Therapy Association's Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, which this year will run from Dec. 2-6, aims to ease that process by promoting ways to help families identify changes that affect driving, recommending screenings and evaluations with an occupational therapist and identifying available safety equipment and resources.

"One of the first steps in addressing older driver safety is having a nonthreatening conversation with our loved ones," according to AOTA, which dedicates one of its awareness-week days to effectively broaching the subject. "Family and friends play a major role in discussions about older driver safety, and it is better to start the conversation early, allowing time for planning and the exploration of options long before the crisis or accident."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following tips to help older drivers stay safe on the road:

  • Exercising regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Asking your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications to reduce side effects.
  • Having eyes checked by a doctor at least once a year.
  • Driving during daylight and in good weather conditions.
  • Planning the best driving routes ahead of time, ensuring they are well-lit and easy to navigate.
  • Leaving a large following distance between you and the car ahead.
  • Considering alternatives such as public transportation.  
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