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Is it time for Grandpa to turn over the car keys?

It's one of the toughest conversations adult children can have with their parents — asking them to quit driving due to age-related debilities. If you feel that they can no longer navigate the roads safely, however, below are some things you should know.

Driving is not merely a way to get from Point A to Point B. It gives us control and freedom and establishes us as competent individuals who can be trusted behind the wheel. It can be an economic boon for those who still have, or choose to, work. Being able to get into the car and drive allows people to remain connected to friends and others in their communities.

But aging reduces the ability to react quickly to avert a crash. Some conditions cause physical and mental declines that make driving very hazardous for the elderly and those they encounter on the road.

Before asking Mom or Dad to surrender the keys, first spend some time around them observing and assessing their skills, driving and otherwise. Talk to friends, caregivers and neighbors to see if they report a decline or change in demeanor. Ride beside them on a short, familiar jaunt to see whether they obey traffic laws and appear aware and oriented.

If their skills and safety seem compromised, it's time for the difficult talk. Choose one person and not a group to bring it up, and put it in a way that preserves their self-respect. Offer alternative transportation plans that will allow them some mobility and freedom. This could include paying for taxis or another driver to take them on errands if you live too far away.

Although age does not equal infirmity, many senior citizens' driving skills diminish with each passing year. If you have been hurt in a crash with an at-fault senior citizen, you may have a cause of action to file an insurance claim or civil suit.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "How to Understand & Influence Older Drivers," accessed June 18, 2015

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