How to know when older parents should stop driving

A Friday morning crash poses question: When should you step in and let your elder parent know it's time to stop driving.

An elderly woman crashed her car right through the front doors of a 7-Eleven near Main Street and Gilbert Road in Mesa Friday afternoon.

Medics took the woman to the hospital as a precaution.

As police figure out exactly what exactly happened, it raises the question: When do we tell our parents to give up the car keys?

It's a question which can make them feel trapped and dependent on us as they get older. It’s a transition that can be difficult.

Some people stop driving in their 60s. For others, it's when they're in their 90s, but regardless of when it happens, having that conversation isn’t always easy .

“One day I said, 'Well Mom, I think I should be driving you around,'” said Carolyn Anchor. “She said 'Oh,' and she handed me the keys.”

For Anchor's mom, giving up driving at 73 years old wasn't a big deal at all.

“I became her chauffer,” she said.

But others fight it.

“Sometimes it's really hard to give up their independence,” said Anchor.

Oftentimes, elderly people end up crashing their car before being forced to hand over the keys.

Mary Few knew a woman who refused to stop driving, a decision that ultimately ended her life.

“Made a wrong turn and turned in front of a truck and got killed right instantly," she said, "and she was about my age, I imagine."

Thankfully Mary hasn't been in any serious crashes, but she has found herself disoriented.

“I turned into the wrong lane … I had help turning around and getting in the right spot and everything,” said Few. “You know, I said 'OK, that's enough of this.'” 

That was the day she made a decision to stop driving at night.

It can be a difficult conversation to have with elderly people in your family.

“It's a loss for them," said Maria Wojtczak of Driving MBA in Scottsdale, who explained they can help out. They have one of 10 different evaluations you can use that are very realistic.

"He hit a school bus on the simulator and you could just see all the emotions cross his face, because he knew 'Oh my God, that could have been real bus and I could have really hurt some children," she said. "So for him that was like the ah-ha moment."

The instructors can't take anyone’s license away, but they can suggest it.

If you're thinking about encouraging your parents to give up driving, there are a lot of ways they can still get around. The cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale both have resources you can use:

Phoenix senior services

Scottsdale senior services

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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