Survey: Dads are hardest parent to stop driving

Who’s the better driver – mom or dad?
In a recent national survey, 63 percent of adult children say dad’s a better driver than mom. However, if adult children had to take away their father’s car keys because he’s unsafe to drive, many fear he would get so angry he’d cut them out of the will.
The new poll reveals 79 percent of adult children say telling their parents they’re taking away their car keys because they’re no longer fit to drive is the most uncomfortable conversation they could have with them. Sixty-six percent say it will be more difficult to have the car keys conversation with dad than with mom. And, three out of four adult children believe dad will be more upset than mom if he can’t drive any more.
The survey of 400 adults whose parents are both living, 65 or older and currently driving, was commissioned by Visiting Angels, an in-home senior care company with more than 450 offices throughout the country, including in Pierce, King and Kitsap counties.
When asked how their parents will react to the car keys conversation, poll respondents said dad is more likely than mom to:
• Deny there is a problem (78%)
• Get angry (74%)
• Refuse to give up his car keys (75%)
• Take away some of the inheritance (70%)
• Stop speaking to you (62%)
Mom is more likely than dad to:
• Cry (89%)
• Say she’s relieved she doesn’t have to drive any more (75%)
• Agree with you and hand over her car keys (70%)
The survey reveals more than half (55 percent) of adult children would prefer their siblings have the car keys conversation with their parents. 58-year-old Jeff Cooper, of Phoenix, Ariz., was nominated by his two sisters to have the dreaded car keys conversation with his 85-year-old dad. Jeff talked to his dad four or five times – and each time, his dad was convinced he was still a good driver. Jeff eventually had to call law enforcement and his insurance agency to test his dad. His father failed the tests, and his keys were taken away. Jeff’s father was furious, and he says it would have been nice to have a caregiver help facilitate this difficult conversation with his dad.
Visiting Angels has created a Senior Driving Safety program that can help families address this issue without causing conflict. The company’s in-home caregivers act as a mediator for families during the car keys conversation with senior parents, and are an extra set of eyes and ears for families at home (is dad on medication that makes him drowsy? Is his hearing getting bad? Are there new dents in the car?). The caregivers also drive seniors to the doctor or the grocery store, the top two places respondents worry their parents can’t visit if they can’t drive.
Visiting Angels created a Senior Passenger Aboard sticker that seniors can proudly put on their vehicle while their caregiver drives them where they need to go. This sticker alerts drivers to be cautious around this vehicle, as seniors are more likely to be injured or killed in traffic crashes due to age-related vulnerabilities, such as fragile bones (AAA).
What’s so stressful about taking away parents’ car keys?
• The majority (61%) of respondents fear their parents will become depressed if they can’t drive.
• Nearly half (45%) say it will in some way damage their relationship with their parents.
• 42% say they worry they’ll now have to drive their parents around.
“We often hear how families dread the ‘car keys’ conversation because it’s uncomfortable, emotionally charged and can strip their parents’ feelings of pride and independence. We would rather help families have this conversation than to have them avoid it all together. That’s why we started the Senior Driving Safety Program,” says Larry Meigs, CEO of Visiting Angels. “Our caregivers can help mediate the conversation and drive parents around so they’re not socially isolated and can get wherever they want to go. Plus, our caregivers are trained to spot elderly driving problems adult children often miss.”