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Ask the Experts

Turning in the Car Keys

Choose the best time — and the right person — to talk to Mom about driving

Q. Mom shouldn't be driving anymore. Even though she only drives locally, I feel she's a danger to herself and others. I've talked to her about giving up her car keys but she won't hear of it and gets angry. Do you have any suggestions?

A. In many communities, cars are the only way to get to the doctor or grocery store. So it's not surprising that a suggestion to hang up the keys can bring on feelings of anger, isolation and depression.

See also: 10 signs that it's time to stop driving.

Reflection of senior man in car mirror - how to take car keys away from senior drivers

Right person at the right time needs to have the time-to-stop-driving talk. — Photo by Thomas Prior/Getty Images

But it's crucial that the discussion continue if you've ridden with her and noticed a pattern of dangerous driving, such as frequent close calls, getting lost or distracted easily, or misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections.

To open the subject, be sure to choose the right messenger — the person who has the best rapport with her. Would that be you, her spouse, a doctor or a close friend or helper?

Whoever it is should be sympathetic, armed with facts about her driving and able to offer ideas for alternative transportation.

Choosing the right time to have that conversation is equally important. It's generally not a good idea to bring up the subject during family gatherings, for instance.

For more guidance, consider taking AARP's "We Need to Talk" seminar, created by The Hartford insurance group and MIT AgeLab.

You may also like: Ensuring transportation for those who don't drive. >>

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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