older man and woman driving car down a road at dusk

How to Get Your Elderly Parent to Stop Driving

Asking an elderly parent to stop driving can be a tough conversation to have. It’s important to keep everybody’s safety in mind, from your parents safety to other drivers they’re sharing the road with. If you believe that your aging parents shouldn’t be driving, follow these steps to start the conversation with them.

Warning signs it’s time to stop driving

As the child of an aging parent, you probably know when it’s time for your parent to stop driving, but here are some signs to look out for to validate that assumption.

  • Dents and scrapes on their car: If your parent has fresh dents or scrapes on their car, that could be a sign that their driving is impaired. Ask them how they dented their car to see if they remember how it happened. 
  • Damage to property: Look around at the surrounding property such as mailboxes, fences, garage door, or the neighbor’s property to see if there’s any visible damage from their car.
  • Having a difficult time seeing: If your parent’s vision is getting worse, this could affect their ability to drive safely.
  • Road rage and honking: If your parent gets angry at others on the road or consistently gets honked at, that could be a sign to stop driving.
  • Not aware of surroundings: Does your parent not look when switching lanes or backing up?
  • Trouble with signs: If your parent has trouble keeping track of traffic signals, signs, or pavement markings, it could be unsafe for them to be on the road.
  • Memory loss or dementia: If your aging parent is showing signs of dementia, it is probably unsafe for them to be driving.

If you’ve witnessed these warning signs in your aging parent, it’s time to sit down and have a conversation with them. It may not sink in after one talk, so know that this is an ongoing process. 

How to talk to your parents about giving up driving

  • It’s important to come to the conversation prepared. Gather resources that support your argument for your parent to stop driving. Talk to your siblings and make sure you are all on the same page to appear as a united front. Also talk with neighbors who may have witnessed their driving. 
  • Make it sound like a change rather than a loss. Not being able to drive is often correlated with a loss of independence and ability to get out of the house. Offer up some alternatives to driving such as the bus, rideshare apps, or volunteer services that provide rides to seniors. 
  • Help them make the change: Offer to help them learn the alternatives by riding the bus with them, showing them how to use Uber or Lyft, or offer to drive them yourself. 

Ask their doctor

If you’ve had this conversation and they still insist on driving, there are plenty of other options to stop them from driving. First, call their doctor and have a discussion about your concerns. The next time your parent goes in for an appointment, their doctor can tell them to stop driving.

File an anonymous “request for driver review”

If your parent still refuses to stop driving after their doctor has expressed concern, then you can anonymously report them to the local DMV and they’ll call them in for a driving test. If your parent fails the test, they will take their drivers license away. Check out this article about a family that did this and were finally able to stop their mom from driving.

Go to the local police

If your parent has had their license taken away and still continues to drive, then go to your local police department. In this Forbes article, 85 year-old Mark’s adult son called the police to tell them his dad was driving without a license and they arranged for the police to pull him over on his way to work, which ultimately stopped him from driving.

Don’t feel bad about escalating the situation to your local DMV or police department. Remember that an elderly person incapable of driving is incredibly dangerous to others on the road and themselves. If someone was seriously injured or even killed in a car accident, you would never forgive yourself. Ensure that you approach the conversation with kindness and concern for their safety and follow these steps to negotiate with your parent to stop driving.

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