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Baby boomers fear talking to their folks about driving safety

By Barbara Marquand on November 24th, 2013

Serious, sit-down conversations with Mom and Dad apparently don't get easier with age.

According to a survey released by Liberty Mutual Insurance, 55 percent of baby boomers are concerned about their parents' driving abilities, but only 23 percent are actually talking to them about it. Another 29 percent say they probably will avoid the conversation entirely.

Adult children say they are most concerned about their parents' poor eyesight and hearing, driving too slow and driving while distracted.

Their concerns are warranted. In 2011, 5,401 people age 65 and older were killed and 185,000 were injured in traffic wrecks.

"Earlier and more frequent conversations about senior driving are essential," David Melton, Liberty Mutual's driving safety expert, said in a press statement.

But most adult kids worry the conversations will go poorly.

Only 38 percent of baby boomers think their parents will understand and be open to a discussion about giving up driving. Most fear their parents will be angry or hurt or will say it is too hard to find other modes of transportation. Twenty-two percent say broaching the subject will make their parents even more determined to keep driving.

Liberty Mutual offers the these tips for talking to senior loved ones about driving:

  • Before talking to your folks about driving, take a ride with them to observe. How are their reaction times? Are there dents, scrapes, close calls, tickets or other warning signs?
  • Research alternate transportation solutions and be prepared to discuss options.
  • Begin the conversation with a question about how they feel when driving.
  • Listen to your parents' concerns.
  • Highlight your concern for their safety and the safety of others.
  • Use a respectful tone, and be patient.
  • Don't get drawn into an argument.
  • Frame the conversation in a positive light. Emphasize the importance of preserving mobility and independence when you talk about supplementing their driving or when driving is no longer safe.
  • Suggest an evaluation from a professional driving teacher.
  • If necessary ask for help from your parent's physician.
  • Keep expectations realistic. You probably won't resolve the matter in one discussion.

Liberty Mutual is a partner with ITNAmerica, a national nonprofit network that provides rides for seniors.

"Liberty Mutual Insurance's findings further strengthen the need for families to have the conversation with seniors, as well as provide more alternative transportation resources to help them make responsible driving decisions," Katherine Freund, founder and president of ITNAmerica, said in a press statement.

More information is available on the ITNAmerica website and at LibertyMutual.com/seniordriving.

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