How to tell your parents they can’t drive anymore

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BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- A hit-and-run crash that left a 14-year-old boy dead in Denver might have been prevented had the driver's family stepped in to get help. That’s the opinion of an expert who deals with elderly drivers and their families.

Pat Livingston, 81, is accused of hitting Cole Sukle as he stood on the sidewalk and bike lane on July 13. She had another hit-and-run accident just months earlier.

"It's very, very sad," said Tara of Broomfield.

She didn’t want to reveal her last name to maintain her father’s privacy. She can relate to the difficulty of seeing her 85-year-old dad's driving ability diminish.

"Just a little bit slow on the reactions, maybe not seeing everything he should be seeing with bikes and things," she said.

She was so concerned, she hired a company that does driving assessments for senior citizens, Pro31 Safe Senior Driver in Fort Collins.

She's grateful for its work and recommendation that her dad give up driving.

"That's the thing you always fear is that not only will they hurt themselves, but hurt someone else," she said. “You fear it most because you don’t want someone to get hurt because you didn’t tell your parent, 'Maybe you shouldn’t be driving.’”

"We do senior driving assessments in the comfort and privacy of the driver's home," said Jill Couch, an occupational therapist with the business.

Over three hours, Couch has an elderly driver do several pen-and-paper memory tests and puzzles, like getting through a maze, which should take less than a minute.

In one example, a driver took more than three minutes -- and didn't complete it correctly.

"From this we have a good idea there are some serious questions about driving safety," she said.

The assessment also includes a driving exercise in their own car, on streets they’re familiar with, in which the assessor looks at things like the senior's strength and stamina in maneuvering a car.

Do they have good neck motion to look for blind spots? Do their feet have enough sensation to tell the difference between the brake and gas pedals?

Tara said during her dad’s driving exercise, he pulled out into the middle lane of a road instead of the closest lane -- twice.

“A truck was coming and he pulled in front of the truck,” she said.

The truck had to honk and move out of the lane.

"I believe he was in shock about it. He didn't anticipate it. He was very confident in his ability to drive," Tara said about the recommendation Pro31 gave her dad. "It's difficult because you're kind of taking on this role of being the protector that your parents did all of those years for you."

She also said hanging up the keys has affected his social life.

“This is his livelihood. This is a sense of pride for him," she said.

Now, he’s getting the hang of public transportation. But it’s not so easy.

“I know he’s lonely. I need to come up with things to help him with that," Tara said.

If Pro31 Safe Senior Driver recommends a driver retire from driving, it steps in to find transportation alternatives to keep the senior engaged with his community.

Pro31 also said signs to look for that your parents shouldn't be driving include difficulty problem solving; a faulty memory -- perhaps they tell the same story over and over; frequent falls; and dents and scratches on their car and garage.