Let’s Talk About It: Having an Effective Conversation on Driver Safety

Older woman handing younger woman car keys

Improving road safety for older adults begins with a conversation--the key is to have the conversation early before a crisis emerges that may affect one’s ability to drive safely.

It is true that older adults are among the safest drivers on the road; however, if they get into a crash, older adults are more likely to get hurt and take a longer time to recover. This can affect their daily life activities.

While many causes may affect an older adult’s driving ability--such as certain medications, diagnoses, and changes in mobility--it is important to remember that a person’s age is not the only reason for noticing their driving habits. 

Talking to a loved one about their driving can be tough. Older adults treasure the freedom driving gives them, and they often have a lot of experience behind the wheel. But having a conversation about this sooner rather than later, before they start experiencing any changes in how they drive, can make things easier down the road. It's also a chance to show you care about their safety and comfort, and it can make the transition smoother when they eventually decide to stop driving.

To help you get started, here are eight tips on how to have a respectful conversation when speaking to an older adult about their driving behavior. 

How to Have the Conversation

  1. Find a convenient time and place to speak with your loved one about their driving concerns. A comfortable setting that is quiet and free from distractions is best. Make sure that all parties are calm and receptive to the discussion. 
  2. Practice understanding and respect. Remember that this conversation topic could be sensitive for your loved one. Honoring their feelings and showing that you are there to support them will help keep all parties open to new ideas or adjustments to better one’s driving. 
  3. Focus the conversation on driving performance. Ultimately, it is a person’s driving performance, not age, that should determine fitness to drive.
  4. Ask about changes they have noticed in their driving. If they mention that they are feeling more anxious or confused when driving, this is an opportunity to provide resources that can help. 
  5. Share any concerns you have. Sometimes, an older driver may not notice if their driving behavior is dangerous, so it is important for you to respectfully bring up any concerns or observations you have about their driving. 
  6. Inform your driver about professional driving assessments. Every driver can benefit from a professional analyzing their driving ability to determine whether they have what they need to drive safely. Occupational therapists and driving rehabilitation specialists can provide driving assessments for your loved one. 
  7. Encourage mindfulness when on the road. If your loved one mentions they haven’t experienced concerns while driving, help them learn the signs to keep in mind when driving that could interfere with driving safety. 
  8. Make a plan. After the conversation, tell your older adult about the ChORUS Transportation Planning Tool. Just as it is never too early to think about financial planning and medical directives, planning for transportation changes is essential for the well-being of your loved one.  

Helpful Resources

The Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety (ChORUS) is here to help you. Explore the resource library on the ChORUS website for information and support services about highway safety for older adults, drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.