Asking an aging parent to give up driving is one of the toughest decisions you will make as a caregiver. An aging parent can view your request as an assault on their independence. But if your loved one suffers from a physical or mental condition that affects their ability to drive safely such as vision impairment or worsening dementia, it’s in their best interest (and in the best interest of those sharing the road) to protect them from getting behind the wheel. So what can you do?
First, have a conversation. Consider asking your loved one if they feel safe when they’re driving. Offer them alternative means of transportation, whether that’s public transportation such as a bus, a community ride-share or an independent mobility device such as a scooter. Ask them about their concerns, and listen to what they have to say. Where do they most want to go? What activities would they feel were threatened if they couldn’t drive, and how could you help them find an alternative plan to access those activities?
If your loved one still refuses to give up driving after alternative solutions are offered, consider reaching out to their physician or their optometrist. No one wants to hear that they need to give up driving, but hearing it from a trusted and respected source such as a doctor might help them take it more seriously.
If all else fails, you can take your concerns to the Department of Motor Vehicles. You can report an impaired driver to undergo a driver fitness and medical review. You will need this form, information such as the driver’s full name and date of birth, along with specific information about your concerns. The process is confidential, and the DMV cannot release information on the source or the reason for the report. Your loved one will then undergo a vision test, a written test and an examination drive with an inspector to determine whether their license should be revoked.
The first and best step to keep your loved one from driving is to convince them to give up the car keys voluntarily. If this isn’t possible, as is oftentimes the case, seek help from a third party such as a doctor, lawyer or religious advisor who is respected by your loved one. Although contacting the DMV about reviewing your loved one’s ability to drive may feel like a harsh action to take, just remember that you are taking the necessary action to protect them from the dangers of unsafe driving.