No one wants to tell an older relative or friend that it might be time for them to reconsider their driving habits or stop getting behind the wheel.
Many senior citizens take offense when others point out what problems a veteran driver may be experiencing.
To ease the burden, AARP will hold two free 60- to 90-minute seminars on how to talk with older drivers about stopping or altering their driving habits.
The first “We Need to Talk” session takes place at 7 p.m. today at the Granite Reef Senior Center, 1700 N. Granite Reef Road in Scottsdale, (480) 312-1700. Another is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Via Linda Senior Center, 10440 N. Via Linda, (480) 312-5810.
Hal Parrott of Scottsdale, the assistant coordinator for the AARP driver safety program in Arizona, will teach the classes. The 72-year-old hopes to reach spouses, children, grandchildren and even friends who think they know someone who might need the program.
He stresses it’s not the same as AARP driver training, a longer course for drivers of all ages.
“We began (the new course) for the over-50 crowd, but we’ll take anybody,” Parrott said of the pilot class. “We’re hoping to reach a lot of people. We want people who know people who they think might have safety problems to come in and learn about the program and how to talk to the person they think needs help.”
Parrott knows many older folks don’t want to admit — or don’t realize — they aren’t driving the way they used to or should. He says the program isn’t an attempt to get drivers off the roads. Rather, it’s an avenue where they can learn to adjust by not driving at night, wearing glasses and not using freeways, among other things. He’d love to get senior citizens age 65 or older who need the training to come to the classes, but realizes many may be too proud or ashamed to do so.
Being talked to by a friend or loved one and going to a class seems a lot better for a senior citizen driver than being stopped by a police officer or later possibly having to face a judge.
“Some people see the problems with a relative, loved one or friends and don’t want to ripple the waters by talking about it,” Parrott said. “We go over how to present to someone that they might need our services in an easy way, offering tips and suggestions on how to not make them not feel bad that they may have driving problems. We would hope older people who think they might be having a problem come to the course.”
Parrott has a 29-point driver behavior warning-signs list. Among them are a decline in confidence, difficulty turning to see when backing up, hitting curbs, trouble navigating turns, using a “co-pilot,” near misses, delayed response time, confusion at exits, confusing the gas and brake pedals and stopping in traffic for no reason.
Parrott said the program will discuss things such as the meaning and importance of driving to older adults, recognizing warning signs of unsafe driving, a cost analysis of driving versus alternative transportation and who should talk with a senior citizen about his or her driving problems.
“It could be forgetting things or just being preoccupied and thinking about and paying attention to other things,” Parrott said. “There are indicators. People need to recognize them and do something about them.”