A NEW road safety website is urging relatives of elderly drivers to do their research before having potentially sensitive conversations about giving up driving. The site, stillsafetodrive.org.uk, contains a suite of videos that cover topics connected with ageing, staying safe, and how to adapt to changes in mobility.

One of the UK’s top driver behaviour experts, TRL chief scientist Professor Andrew Parkes, warns, in a video interview on the site, that elderly drivers can feel quite defensive about their driving and any criticism of it.

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“I know this from my own experience, as I was recently on a car journey driven by my father, the first for 10 years,” he says in a video interview that forms part of the Still Safe To Drive resource. “I noticed how his style of driving had changed; he was driving much faster, much more aggressively and assertively than he had done before.

“I reacted by expressing my surprise and then trying to make a joke out it, which probably made my father feel even more defensive about his driving.”

Professor Parkes says that talking to an elderly relative about driving – especially if your goal is to get that person to hang up the car keys – needs to be part of a properly planned approach that’s sensitive and constructive.

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“With the benefit of hindsight I should not have said anything to my father immediately,” he adds. “It would have been much more helpful to come back to the subject when I had lined up some sensible ideas to help my father, rather than simply expressing surprise and concern at his driving style.

“Taking time to think about just what journeys your elderly relative needs to make can assist in reducing the overall negative impact of age and the restrictions on mobility that can go with it,” concludes Andrew Parkes. “You’re showing care and compassion, which can only help an elderly person make a smoother transition to a less mobile lifestyle.”

The resource can be found at www.stillsafetodrive.org.uk

Tips for making the conversation as positive as possible:

  • Put yourself in an older person’s shoes before you have a discussion that focuses on giving up driving. The best way to do this is by experiencing life without the car yourself. This will help you appreciate both the drawbacks and the advantages.
  • Don’t expect to deal with everything in one conversation where you may be dropping a bombshell.
  • The best approach is to engage your elderly relative in a conversation on the subject before you have specific safety concerns.
  • Broaching the issue of safety and ‘giving up’ a year or more early might mean you’re spared the need to confront your relative – and you can work together over a period of time to make a few small adjustments in driving style, vehicle and journey type.
  • Explore the practical options your relative will have to remain as mobile as possible.
  • If you’re going to talk about using the bus, then research the timetable. If you’re suggesting taxis, check out a few sample fares.
  • Don’t focus solely on the necessary journeys. Yes, elderly relatives may well need lifts to the surgery and the shops, but they are likely to miss the freedom of a car for outings and social visits, so have a plan to assist them in maintaining this important aspect of mobility, even if it’s not in their own car.
  • Check out some of the options for volunteer services from local organisations. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to act as full-time chauffeur for an elderly relative, but there are often local schemes that can assist with lifts on a regular or occasional basis.

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Source: GEM Motoring Assist