Responding to negative reactions during driving conversations

No one wants to be in an automobile accident. However, sometimes driving safety discussions can bring up strong emotions.

Older adults might be afraid that they might lose their freedom, or feel embarrassed to admit that they're struggling with something they did easily for decades. They might feel like their judgment is being questioned.

During difficult discussions, do your best to calmly and clearly share your thoughts, using phrases like, "I am concerned," "My feelings are," or "In my opinion." Focus on what you can agree on and how you can work together.

Listen carefully to the older adult and consider what the older adult says. Remember that what you're talking about might change the older adult's life significantly.

You and the older adult might have different ways of speaking or thinking about driving.

Driving discussions can be difficult when:

  • You disagree about whether there are driving issues, or what the issues are.

  • You disagree about what's most important. For example, you might be more concerned about safety, but the older adult might be more concerned about not relying on others for rides.

  • You disagree about what's a good solution.

  • You use or hear words differently. For example, you ask about the dents in the garage, but the older adult hears that you want to take away their keys.

  • You have different communication or decision making styles.

  • You want different people to be involved when you discuss driving.

  • How you respond to each other is shaped by family patterns or social roles.

It can help to make your concerns and goals clear. You might say, "I am not trying to make things difficult for you. I am worried about your safety. Please let me know what I can do."

It can help to ask the older adult to explain their objections. Try to understand the older adult's point of view.

If the older adult doesn't want to discuss it, don't push. You might need to agree to disagree on some things. The older adult has the right to make decisions. Think about what you can do to accept and support the older adult's choices.

It's usually better to drop the subject and discuss it again later. If you understand why the last conversation was difficult, you might be able to find a different way to discuss driving next time.