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A new survey finds that elderly drivers welcome a conversation from their children about whether they should continue driving or not. / BOB RIHA JR., USA TODAY

There's good news for adult children of senior drivers who've been dreading having that all-important conversation about whether it's time to hand over the keys: Mom or Dad might be more willing than you think to have that talk.

That's according to a new survey from insurer Liberty Mutual, which found that 84% of senior drivers said they were open to conversations about limiting or stopping their driving. But only 6% of respondents said they had spoken with someone about their driving abilities.

The finding might help some adult children to finally have that chat they've been avoiding. Last year, a similar Liberty Mutual survey of adults ages 40-65 with at least one parent who drives found that 55% of the adult children were concerned about their parents' driving habits, but just 23% had had a discussion with their parents.

"It's definitely good news," says Dave Melton, Liberty Mutual's managing director of global safety, who says it's important to have those conversations "early and often."

"I think a large majority of seniors are certainly willing to listen, preferably to their doctor or their kids, about a time when it might be appropriate to start transitioning to the passenger seat."

It helps when the adult child can help with alternatives, Melton says.

That's what Rose and Martin Smith's son did to finally convince his mother to stop driving, Rose Smith says. Martin Smith, 84, of Palmer Township, Pa., had given up driving about a year ago as he battled macular degeneration. The driving duties then fell to Rose Smith, also 84. "I really didn't drive any more than I had to, and only to places I was familiar with," she says.

After she caused a non-injury traffic crash in February, their son, Mark, and his wife, Joan, finally convinced her to give up the keys. Mark Smith did research and signed them up with ITNAmerica, a national organization with affiliates around the nation that provides rides for seniors. "That was a big help," Rose Smith says. "It relieved him of the worry, and he knew we'd be taken care of."

Julie Lee, vice president and national director of driver safety for AARP, says, "One of the most important things driving provides, especially for older drivers, is independence." She says participants in AARP Smart Driver courses have often indicated a willingness to learn more about staying safe behind the wheel - including limiting the time they're on the road.

It's a situation that more and more Americans will confront, According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 23.1 million licensed drivers ages 70 and older in 2012 - a 30% increase from 1997. The proportion of the 70-and-up population with driver's licenses also is increasing, from 73% in 1997 to 79% in 2012, IIHS says.

Liberty Mutual commissioned a telephone survey of 1,000 people 75 and older. Of these, 582 said that they still drive, while 418 no longer drove or no longer had a valid driver's license. The results have a 3.94% margin of error for drivers.

The majority of those drivers, 78%, said that they drive regularly even after reporting declining physical abilities. One in six said they tire easily or have slow reaction times, 13% reported difficulty seeing or hearing, and 9% said they got lost or felt confused while driving.

In 2012, 4,079 people 70 and older were killed in vehicle crashes. But seniors are not disproportionately represented among all crash victims, IIHS says; in fact, 31% fewer people 70 and older died in crashes in 2012 than in 1997.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Survey: Senior drivers not reluctant to discuss safety

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