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When It’s Time to Give Up the Car Keys

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April 05, 2023

My son just recently got his driver's license. Sitting in the DMV with him reminded me of when I got my license and the sense of freedom that it gave me. It can be quite liberating when you are young. But it also got me thinking about my elderly mother, and when would be the right time for her to give up the car keys.

No matter how well meaning we are at the Thanksgiving table trying to convince them to stop driving themselves we have to remember that loss of freedom is coming for us one day. However, we do know that as we age, our reflexes decrease, our eye sight is not as sharp as it was and the overall safety of being behind the wheel dramatically decreases. Even though older drivers drive less frequently than other age groups, when measured not by the number of crashes per driver, but by crashes per mile driven, the data shows a substantial rise in crashes after the age of seventy.

There is no set age that determines when someone should stop driving. Many people can drive into their late 80s and 90s. Many older people are able to compensate because of years of driving experience and safe behavior. In fact older drivers are not only more likely to obey speed limits, wear safety belts and take fewer risks than other age groups, but they are also less likely to drive while under the influence of alcohol. However, most people continue driving for 7-10 years longer than they should. Most states only require you to pass a vision test to renew your license. This means that a senior will continue to drive unless the family gets involved in taking away the keys.

So what are some warning signs that it's time to stop driving? Driving too fast or slow; staying in the lane; hitting curbs; gaining dents or scratches on the car, are all signs to look for. Getting lost when driving and having trouble reading street signs are also signs to be aware of.

No one wants to upset their loved ones, but having a conversation is the first step. Be non-accusatory to avoid a hostile conversation. Use questions like: "I'm finding it difficult to see well when I'm driving at night, Does this ever happen to you?" or "I know I get nervous when people speed right past me, how about you?". Also encourage them to get an updated eye exam. You may find that a poor exam will convince them that it is time. Stress your concern for safety. People over 70 involved in a car accident are more likely to be seriously hurt or require hospitalization.

Finding transportation alternatives is an important step. If the senior does not know how they will still get around, they will never make the decision to give up the keys. Research available transportation options. Look for the local area Agency on Aging for ideas. If there is a family member that can pitch in for driving duties, make a schedule, so all transportation activities can be done on the same day. And with ride apps like Uber, teach your senior how easy it is to use. If they complain about the cost, just show them a comparison of the cost of maintaining their own car versus the ride sharing expenses. When you add up insurance, gas, quarterly maintenance, parking and other expenses they are currently spending, they will probably find that the once or twice a week Uber is a better deal. If they sell their car, they can probably cover those expenses for many years.

In the end, we want our loved ones to be safe, but you must be respectful to the senior's situation. Remember, you are going to be there one day.


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About the author

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Van Pappas

Vice President, Private CFO®

Van Pappas, CFP® - Van is a native of Atlanta. He holds his undergraduate degree in Finance with an emphasis in Real Estate. As a planner for 15 years, he earned his CFP designation from Kaplan University. He is currently the Chairman and founder of the Chamblee Chamber of Commerce and sits on the Downtown Development Authority for the City of Chamblee. In 2012, he noticed the value of helping the X-Y Generations and decided to merge his practice with oXYGen Financial.

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice. Investor Disclosures: https://bit.ly/KF-Disclosures

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice. https://Bit.ly/KF-Disclosures

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