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When Is It Time to Hang Up the Keys?

The holiday season is the perfect time to relax, unwind and visit with family. Unbeknownst to many, the holidays also provide an opportunity to get together with older parents or loved ones and consider a topic that we will all face one day: driving retirement.

A recent Florida State University study found that most older adults have no backup plan after hanging up their keys. Eighty-three percent of survey respondents ages 65+, and 92 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds, reported that they have no “transportation retirement plan.” An alarming 13 percent of survey respondents indicated they would not stop driving at all, with 3 percent expressing the unsettling opinion that “they would die before they would stop driving.”

This study illustrates that there is a clear need for families to start having discussions about driving retirement.

But before you broach this very sensitive topic, do your homework, and before initiating any conversation, you should observe your loved one’s driving firsthand. The holidays, when the whole family is together, may be the perfect time to do this.

Look for a pattern of warning signs, such as these:

  1. Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls.”
  2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, or curbs.
  3. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings.
  4. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal, or confusing the two pedals.
  5. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps.
  6. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving.
  7. Having a hard time turning around to check over his or her shoulder while backing up or changing lanes.

When observing and assessing your loved one’s driving, try to differentiate between everyday mistakes and more serious safety risks. If you do notice one or more of these cautionary signs, consider exploring the We Need to Talk online seminar or watch a recording of our recent webinar, “Family Conversations with Older Drivers.”

Have you ever considered driving retirement, either for yourself or for a loved one? How did you handle it, or how do you plan to handle it when the time comes?

For more tips and information, be sure to follow AARP Driver Safety on Facebook and Twitter.