Eric Douglas Published

When Is It Time To Ask Dad To Give Up His Car Keys?

A smiling elderly couple driving a car.Zoran Zeremski/Adobe Stock

There comes a time when everyone has to decide to give up driving. It’s not an easy decision for most people, and it is even harder when a child has to convince their parent it is time to hang up the keys. 

For his series “Getting Into Their Reality: Caring For Aging Parents,” News Director Eric Douglas spoke with insurance expert Paul Moss, founder of HeyDriver! to gain some insight. Moss has collected and analyzed driving data for 20 years. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Douglas: Before we get really started, tell me how you became an expert on this topic.

Moss: My name is Paul Moss, and I got my start in insurance in the early 2000s. And I always looked at insurance not only as a product, but I also look at it as one of the few products that can protect a livelihood and that people work so hard for. Everyone tries to make insurance about price, but the reality is, if you don’t have the right policy, when your worst day happens, your life can be flipped upside down. 

Douglas: My goal for today is aging drivers. What do you need to do to offset or to prevent a potential tragedy?

Moss: I want people to understand what insurance companies do with older drivers so that your audience can insulate themselves against what happens to ensure that they’re not only keeping themselves safe, but they’re also keeping everyone else on the road safe.

Douglas: Drivers over 75 have the second highest rate, after teenagers, of fatal car crashes per miles driven. What are some of the issues that come up with older drivers and getting in an accident?

Moss: Father Time can be unforgiving, right? So things like our ability to react, motor skills, and how fast motor skills will kick in happens at a much slower pace. Believe it or not, texting, the influence of texting and driving isn’t just for teenagers. It actually goes all the way through the ages and generations of the population. And so not only is distracted driving far more prevailing than it’s been, it doesn’t matter which population you’re talking about. But let’s say you have an inexperienced teenage driver, who’s texting while they’re driving. Let’s say they go through their red light and you swerve to avoid them and you hit somebody. That’s actually the fault of the other driver, not the texter. So even if you’re not texting and driving, and just trying to avoid a texter, hyper-vigilance needs to really be in place. 

This is a true story. There was a lady who drove one mile per week. And that was it. That’s the only reason she used her car and she would drive to the grocery store. She didn’t have to go on a freeway. She was driving one day and a kid ran out into the road chasing a ball. She did what every single person on this planet would do. She swerved to avoid the child, which is the absolute right thing to do. In doing so, she hit the back wheel of a bicycle and the rider of the bicycle flew off the handlebar and shattered his wrist of his left hand. He was a 40-year-old surgeon. And he sued for 30 years of loss of ability to do his job and won. 

Douglas: Car insurance rates increase for older drivers. How does that work?

Moss: You go through your prime years of driving in the insurance company’s eyes when you’re going from 35 to 55 or 60. And you have very few accidents in this window so they’re collecting their paycheck with very little pay out. Once you hit a certain age, they really want to get you off the books, because they look at you now as a liability. Effectively, what they’re trying to do is every six months, every year, they’ll drive up your price. 

And their goal is actually that you will shop your policy, and that you will leave, because they don’t care about their paycheck anymore. They look at it as there’s a time bomb that’s going to go off. Eventually, they will just flat cancel people and force them to shop. But that’s how it works.

Douglas: Interesting. Is there a top end where they say we’re just not going to do it anymore?

Moss: It really depends on the company. Allstate has their algorithm, State Farm has their algorithm, etc. And so each company is different. But what I can tell you is, in the billions of dollars of insurance that I’ve sold, it doesn’t matter how good of a driving record you’ve had historically, there are milestones in their algorithms that they just want to push you off. 

Douglas: What should I, as a child, look for in my parents to say, “Hey, Mom, it’s time to stop now?” In my case, we went through this two years ago, and fortunately, it was relatively simple. She didn’t fight it. But that’s where you’re losing your freedom, you’re losing your ability to do things for yourself. So what are some of the benchmarks that we need to look for as children to talk to our parents?

Moss: There’s certainly signs. Vision is decreasing, moving slower. But there’s also ego involved. Nobody wants to face the fact that they’re physically going through these changes. My suggestion on this is self-actualization really matters. Being honest, can you really see, can you really respond like you need to in a vehicle? If you can, make it about other people. Accidents are usually two car incidents. If you get in an accident, you also have the potential to hurt somebody else and kill somebody else. It’s not just about you. And so if the conversation can move a bit away from, you know, talking about, like the degradation of motor skills, and can move to, here’s the consequences, like emotionally, you could turn this family upside down, and you could turn another family upside down, if you’re not self-actualizing. That’s really where, you know, you hope that people will come to terms with reality.

The key is genuinely, be honest with yourself about your abilities. Because you really can turn your family’s life upside down and other families’ lives upside down.