Have an Older Person Who Doesn’t Drive? Show Them the Way to a License and Independence

Just as you might be surprised by the relatively high rate of adult functional illiteracy, you may also me amazed by how many adults – especially adult females 40 and other – do not know how to drive a car, truck or SUV. After all, many of us thought the non-licensed, not-driving female went out with our mother’s or grandmother’s generation.

In truth, however, especially among those who grew up in school districts without a driver’s education program in high school or those who grew up in largely urban areas such as New York City or Los Angeles, the rate of those unable to drive a car may strike the rest of us as amazingly high. On the one hand, it’s great because these people may use less fuel by taking public transportation. Yet, on the other, not being able to drive oneself – unless the person has a fair amount of money to pay professionals to drive them – can seriously curtail one’s life outside home as well as their independence.

My mother, for example, never learned to drive. Oh, she tried, with many different teachers. During these lessons, she not only took down countless garbage cans, roadside guard posts, mailboxes, and the occasional fence, but she suffered an untold number of panic attacks. The result was that she, as a rural widow, was forever dependent on others to provide her with transportation to and from the grocery story, the doctor’s office, and literally anywhere and everywhere else she wanted and needed to go.

Do you have someone in your life who doesn’t know how to drive? Perhaps someone for whom you are often called upon to provide rides, whether it is convenient or not?

If so, despair not. There is hope. But the post teenager can require some special patience, consideration, and the right conditions to finally tackle the difficult obstacle of preparing to become a licensed driver.

Here are some tips from the experts:

1. Reinforce all the ways this person’s life can become easier if he or she learns to drive, like the freedom to go anywhere at any time. Even if he or she doesn’t necessary feel they can afford a car, there are charity and low-cost programs to help people acquire wheels if they cannot afford a vehicle themselves, such as the Good Samaritan Garage operating in many states.

2. If trying to teach this person yourself does not work out, consider helping them find a professional driver’s training program where they can learn one-on-one. Older learners often do better alone with a teacher than when shunted into a group program with eager sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds.

3. If the person absolutely refuses a professional trainer, try to find someone within their sphere of friends and families who is a good match in terms of patience, good driving skills, humor, and a relaxed but watchful nature.

4. You may need to utilize a few different teachers to help the person learn; one “teacher” may be better for basics, another for highway experience, and so on. Make certain everyone is on the same page in terms of what the person needs.

5. Expect this to take more than a few lessons as there is often a reason why the non-driver has not successfully been licensed before.

6. Start out the lessons in low traffic areas. Then, only once the older student has built up some skill and confidence should you help them move into higher traffic, higher complex areas in which to drive.

7. Make sure the person has a driver’s permit and the most recent copy of your state’s driver’s education handbook to help them pass the test.

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