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How do you know it's time for an older loved one to hand over their keys?

The unfortunate reality for anyone with senior parents is that there will likely come a day in the not too distant future when they will have to have a difficult conversation with them about their ability to engage in the activities they love in light of health concerns and other safety considerations.

For example, one such conversation that many children must have with their senior parents -- albeit reluctantly -- is whether it's time to give up driving, meaning their license and their keys.

The issue is particularly relevant here in Rhode Island, where statistics from the Department of Motor Vehicles reveal that as many as 20 percent of the state's 763,844 licensed drivers are currently 65 years old and up, meaning they outnumber drivers under the age of 19 by a margin of six to one.

While many seniors are perfectly capable and safe drivers, there is no disputing that as people age, their vision, reaction times, mental acuity and general physical condition can start to deteriorate and make them more of a safety threat behind the wheel.

This reality, plus the fact that the state driving manual expressly states that a license "brings with it a serious responsibility for the safety of others and yourself," may mean it's time to consider having that difficult conversation with a parent sooner than later.

Indeed, those people hoping that the DMV will decide the matter for them should know that state law only provides that drivers 75 and up must renew their license (complete with eye exam) every two years as opposed to every five years, and that while the agency can take away someone's license after careful consideration, this is a rarity.

How then can the child of a senior parent know when it's time to have this conversation?

According to the AARP, any of the following may be a sign that it's time to have a talk:

  • Repeated near misses and traffic tickets
  • The car, as well as the garage, mailbox, curb, fence, are showing more and more dents, scrapes and dings
  • Difficulty seeing street signs or other road markings
  • Increased tendency to get lost, even in familiar locations
  • Frequently confusing the gas and brake
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Inability to turn to check blind spots
  • No longer able to accurately gauge distance
  • Increasingly prone to distraction

Please remember if you or a loved one were seriously injured in a car accident caused by the reckless actions of another behind the wheel that you can seek to hold them accountable in a court of law.         

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