How boomers can best talk to parents about driving

A new survey commissioned by Liberty Mutual insurance A new survey commissioned by Liberty Mutual insurance company found that nine in 10 boomers thought it was important to have a conversation with their parents about their driving, and 55 percent were worried about their parents' driving skills. Photo Credit: Handout

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Are you a boomer who is concerned about your parents' ability to drive? And, most likely, will you do nothing about it? If so on both counts, you are in the majority.

A new survey commissioned by Liberty Mutual insurance company found that nine in 10 boomers thought it was important to have a conversation with their parents about their driving, and 55 percent were worried about their parents' driving skills. But only 23 percent said they were talking to their parents about the subject. The main reason boomers avoided the conversation: Nearly half said they thought their parents would be angry or hurt.

"I was surprised by the numbers and percentages of people who say they are going to avoid the conversation," says David Melton, Liberty Mutual's managing director of global safety. "It's really kind of scary."

Melton says the point of starting a safe-driving conversation with your parents is not to take away the car keys. The goal is to find out if there are any problems, and to do so in a nonthreatening way.

For example, Melton says the adult child can say, "I've noticed traffic around the Island has gotten much heavier than it was five or six years ago." This gets the conversation rolling, and the senior may talk about how driving has become more difficult and dangerous. If this is the case, the adult child can gently suggest that the parent reduce his or her driving, or limit it to times when the roads aren't as crowded.

Melton points out that many adult kids haven't ridden in a car with their parents behind the wheel for years and don't know if Mom or Dad is still a capable driver. He suggests planning a small outing, perhaps to the supermarket or the mall, and ask the parent to drive. "Just simply observe how they're doing," he says.

One sign that your parents may be experiencing trouble on the roads is the condition of their car. "Start looking for the dings and the dents, the scratches and the scrapes that weren't there the last time you saw them," Melton says.

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For information on senior driving safety, AAA has tips at seniordriving.aaa.com. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a guide on how to begin a conversation with senior drivers. Download "How to Understand and Influence Older Drivers" at bit.ly/NHTSA-seniors.

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