aging and driving

Keeping Your Loved One Safe on the Road: Warning Signs and Driving Tips 

It can be difficult to see our parents age, especially as the aging process starts to limit their capabilities, dismantle lifestyles and, in particular, corrode their independence. Despite this difficult time, your responsibility is to intervene when your aging parent shows signs of behavior that could be a risk to themselves or others, particularly driving.

Physical limitations and memory issues, for example, can seriously affect the safety of your father — and other drivers — while on the road. The following steps can help you navigate this unwelcome change, whether he needs to make some adjustments while behind the wheel or give up the keys altogether.

Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs

Denial is dangerous, so take action by identifying any obvious warning signs. An accident or close call, physical damage to the car or surroundings, speeding tickets and frequently getting lost in familiar locations are obvious signs of poor driving. You may have to monitor your father’s driving by checking in periodically as a passenger. From there, check to see how he responds to oncoming traffic signals, road signs and pavement markings. AARP identifies slow reaction times, misjudging gaps (at intersections, highway entrances and exit ramps), road rage and distractions as major causes for concern. As his co-pilot, you should be able to pick up on how secure and confident he feels behind the wheel and if his driving is a threat to himself and other drivers.

Address the Issue, Sooner Than Later

The conversation to address your dad’s declining driving skills can be uncomfortable and painful. Keep in mind his and other drivers’ safety depends on making adjustments — or forgoing driving altogether. First, plan ahead and start with questions to ease into the issue. Express your concerns, listen to his responses without making quick judgments, and allow him to share any concerns or opposition after you offer actionable solutions.

If your father’s driving isn’t a severe danger, AAA recommends to start off by discussing the benefits of a comprehensive driving assessment. For example, older drivers in Florida can take a senior citizens’ refresher test online to help them work and improve upon their driving skills and traffic law knowledge. From there, you can inquire about any medical problems with their physician, explore transportation and carpooling options, and set concrete limitations, like only driving during the daytime or to run quick errands.

Encourage Safe-Driving Adjustments

Many older adults are capable of driving safely, just as long as they make adjustments to accommodate skills that have weakened through aging. The National Institute of Health advises older drivers to check their vision, hearing, physical changes or medications that may interfere with safe driving. A hearing aid or corrective lenses can help improve their driving. Help your parent make changes in their daily driving habits, including:

  • Getting rides (rather than driving) at night
  • Avoiding high-traffic areas
  • Reducing distractions (like the radio)
  • Making an effort to maintain adequate distance between other cars, or braking early

Derrick Grant, founder of, says enrolling dad in defensive driving courses, ensuring he maintains clear visibility on the road, and confirming his own awareness and comfort behind the wheel can improve his safety while on the road.

Help Prevent Social Isolation

If driving altogether is no longer safe for your father, keep in mind there may be new challenges that arise. Without the ability and freedom to drive, your homebound parent will now be dependent on others for transportation. Social isolation can affect the health, well-being and quality of life for loved ones. Thus, developing a plan and schedule of transportation options can help restore some independence.

These may include family rides, carpooling with friends and public transportation options for seniors. Next, encourage your father to find a sense of purpose. What hobbies and interests can he pursue? Volunteering can help him stay involved in the community and curb feelings of loneliness. Likewise, technology can also help him stay connected through text and video messaging, real-time virtual activities, online classes and interactive games.

Armin Brott

View posts by Armin Brott
Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.
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