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Conversation about giving up the car complex

Older drivers focus of free program at Clark County library.

Parents worry over “the talk” about sex as their children approach puberty. Adult children worry over “the talk” about driving as their parents age.

Denis Driscoll will suggest how best to broach the topic in “We Need to Talk: Family Conversations with Older Drivers.”

Sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). the free program will be offered at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, in the Gaier Room of the Clark County Public Library.

Driscoll, 73, of New Carlisle, said he found himself in the middle of this issue during the 14 years he spent as a volunteer teacher with the AARP’s safe driving course.

When he was the program’s state coordinator, “I got all kinds of telephone calls,” he said.

“People would call and say ‘I’ve got this problem with my dad or my mother.’ And I also got some of the opposite ones: ‘My son and daughter are trying to make me quit driving.’”

He even found himself in the middle of a family “car-napping,” when children conspired to take their father’s car from him during a visit to their home.

The issue is framed clearly on the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web page, “Older Drivers: Get the Facts.”

“Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent,” the site says. “But the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as you age.”

“Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and increase notably after age 80,” it continues. “Across all age groups, males had substantially higher death rates than females.”

Driscoll said that “as long they’re safe,”older drivers are “better off mentally and physically” if they can continue to drive.

AARP safe driving courses are designed to help older people bolster good driving and safety habits: driving when the weather is good, driving in the daylight rather than at night and planning routes for ease of driving.

He said that the conversation about curtailed driving is much easier if it’s started before there’s a problem. An accident on the news involving an older driver can provide an opening.

Driscoll said people typically think about older adults dragging their feet on the issue, but some children avoid “the talk” for the same reason their parents do: the difficulty of facing the consequences.

“Who’s going to have to drive them?” Driscoll said. “That’s why a lot of times they don’t want to talk to them about it.”

He also said “the talk” is more difficult for children who live far away from their parents. First, they’re not around to observe their parents’ driving, which he recommends to determine whether there really is a problem.

Second, they’re not in as good a position to help them if the car has to be parked.

“You can’t just say you’re going to have to quit,” Driscoll said. “You have to have an alternative for them.”

Driscoll said situations differ from individual to individual.

“I’ve got three kids within six miles of me,” he said, which will make his transition easier.

People’s attitudes toward giving up driving also differ, he said.

“My grandfather decided it was time for him to quit. He told my aunt, ‘Here’s my keys.’ That was his ‘conversation.’”

But he also knows a case in which an older man not only got angry with a son who tried to get him to stop driving but chewed out an Ohio Highway Patrol who pulled him over.

“He was one you couldn’t talk to.”

But the sometimes fatal consequences of failing to have the talk made the effort worthwhile.

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