You first noticed this a few weeks ago, and time has only proven that things aren’t getting any better, and now you’re wondering how to get a parent to stop driving.
Your loved one is driving 30mph through 55mph zones, can’t stay in their lane, and is having regular trouble finding where it is they need to go.
They’ve lived by themselves for forever, and you know they’re not going to look kindly on this discussion, but it’s time for a serious talk about serious matters: you don’t think they should be driving anymore.
How do you broach such a subject though? Are there resources out there which can help? Let us take a deeper look into the question below.
Are Older People More Dangerous Drivers?
We’ve all witnessed the older driver in traffic who is going 20mph under the speed limit, all over the road, or otherwise driving erratically. It’s part of the reason that so many people have the notion that an older driver is automatically an unsafe driver.
But is this actually the case? Does just being older instantly make one a threat on the road?
According to the CDC, the risk of both injury and death due to vehicular accidents does increase with age. This seems to suggest that there is an increased risk for older drivers. Furthermore, research has shown that drivers 75+ years old have higher crash death rates when compared with drivers who fall within the age bracket of 35-54 years old.
Whether this in and of itself is due to problems from the driver or not is somewhat debatable however, as it has been pointed out that many of the car-related deaths for the 75+ population would have been survivable had the driver been younger. The fact of the matter is that younger people are more disaster resilient than older people. The potential for an injury doesn’t affect them as badly as it does someone with more winters under their belt.
Regardless, of what age group we’re looking at though, we do find that males have substantially higher death rates than females.
But does this all mean older drivers are accidents waiting to happen? Not necessarily.
Rand.org has found that drivers 65+ years old are actually 16% more likely to cause an accident than other drivers. This is most certainly a statistically significant difference, but whether one believes it is a game changing statistic or not is likely to be more relative.
As Rand.org points out on their website, one of the main reasons we don’t see a larger increase in age-related accidents is because older drivers tend to self-regulate. If they feel as if they can’t drive safely – whether that be due to nighttime, rain, increased traffic, or physical limitations – older people often avoid such situations.
This should serve as a source of hope for those who are concerned about the fallout from discussing not driving with a loved one as it does seem to indicate that many older drivers do take these kinds of concerns seriously. Should it be pointed out to them that they are driving unsafely, and it may be best if they don’t drive at all, they may very well take heed of your warning and respond appropriately.
Note: If your concerns around getting your loved one to stop driving are less about actual driving safety and more around mobility (getting into/out of the vehicle), explore mobility alternatives first. There are many products on the market to help, the most basic device being the car swivel seat. Talk with a physical or occupational therapist for more advice on mobility limits with driving.
The DMV May Do the Hard Part for You
In many states throughout America, it has been widely recognized that older drivers can often cause fatal accidents. It’s been because of this that laws have been passed in many states requiring older drivers to routinely pass a driver’s test to continue to qualify to hold a driver’s license.
For a full list of what each state’s laws are on such, click on the link HERE to see how each state stands.
Signs to Look for that Show It’s Time to Toss the Keys
While it must be understood that an older person isn’t going to have the physical capabilities of a younger person (e.g., not as good of vision), this doesn’t in itself mean that older drivers shouldn’t be able to drive a car.
However, there are times that adequate warning signs are present which show that a boundary has indeed been crossed. If you are regularly seeing any of the below in the driver at question, it very well may be time to discuss their no longer driving on the road.
- Frequently getting lost
- Physical limitations which keep one from a safe ability to operate a vehicle
- Severe vision problems
- Driving much too fast
- Driving inappropriately slow
- Stopping in the middle of the road for no reason
- Constantly getting traffic tickets
- Difficulty staying in lane
- An excessively slow response rate
- Getting distracted too easily
- Trouble making turns
- Trouble turning one’s neck to adequately ensure it is okay to change lanes
If you notice any of the above signs with your loved one it may very well be time to discuss with the rest of the family about getting mother to no longer drive. To help with determining whether you’re at a point where you need to talk with your loved one about their no longer driving, check out this helpful brochure titled “At the Crossroads” made available by The Hartford.
Consequences of Not Taking Away the Keys
It doesn’t take much imagination to think what the potential consequences could be of not taking the keys of an older driver.
Death of the Driver
For starters, the driver in question could easily get themselves killed. According to the CDC, during the year 2018, roughly 7700 adults 65+ years old were killed in car crashes, and 250,000 others were sent to the emergency room as a result of one.
If we look just one year later into 2019, we find that 20% of all traffic fatalities were those whom were 65+ years old.
So, as we can see, death of the driver is a very real risk here.
Perchance that isn’t enough of a motivator to get the driver in question to stop, consider that above statistic on 250,000 older adults being sent to the emergency room. This number well exceeds the number of older adults who were killed in car accidents and represents those who suffered debilitating injuries.
True, one can die anytime from just about anything – it’s a part of life – but what about living the rest of your life with back pain so severe you can’t even sit in a chair? That’s not a fun way to spend the next 15 years of life.
Older people do not heal as quickly or as well as younger people and this needs to be accounted for by the unsafe older driver. If the driver has family members who depend on their ability to maneuver (e.g., a stroke victim spouse who needs help with activities of daily life), the driver needs to consider their ability to take care of them as well.
Should they become injured in a car accident will they be able to take care of their loved ones’ needs?
If an unsafe older driver plows into a storefront, who is going to pay the costs? Insurance? If one has ever had any dealings with insurance companies in the past, they know that they make a living by denying claims.
What is then going to come out of pocket for this driver could cause financial stress on the rest of the family.
Injecting Death into Another Family
The worst outcome that can come about from an unsafe driver continuing to do so isn’t their own death – it’s their causing the death of another. Imagine the pain that comes from a 16-year-old being robbed of his future because he was hit by an unsafe older driver – particularly if the older driver lives.
Nothing about such an outcome feels fair and is bound to cause a severe level of grief and heartfelt pain by all parties involved.
How Do You Discuss Taking Away a Family Member’s Driver’s License?
If you’re gradually being drawn to the realization that it is time to discuss no longer driving with a loved one, where does one start? Are there overriding principles which should be followed throughout the conversation? Consider the following:
Tell Them What Your Concerns Are
Communication is key to any effective relationship, is it not? Speaking your concerns must happen. This is going to be a much smoother transition than their sudden discovery you’ve taken their keys from them. Talk to your family member about this.
Speak the Truth with Love
This is vital. If you can’t speak the truth with love here, you’re only going to be asking for a fight. Without love, you are driving a wedge. You are only bringing this subject up because you want what is best for them, and you must season your speech with charity to get your point across in a manner that will stick.
Remind Them You Will Be There to Help
One of the first rebuttals that is likely to form in the mind of the person you are talking to is that they’ll be placed under a form of voluntary house arrest. This is going to be viewed as unacceptable. How will they get groceries? How will they get to church? What are they going to do if they need something at Lowe’s?
If they are a family member, you need to remind them that you will be there to help – and then you need to stand by your promise.
Approaching the Subject of Taking Away the Keys
Obviously, broaching this subject is something that takes a high level of love, discretion, and prior planning. A car gives one independence, and you are literally talking about removing that from somebody you love.
If one puts themselves in another’s shoes, it is easy to see how this can quickly be a flashpoint of familial strife.
Here are some ideas on how to bring the subject to light:
Have Them Conduct a Self Assessment
Perhaps the most effective way to get a parent to stop driving is to have them come to the conclusion themselves, and to do that, you could show them a third-party tool for self assessment.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has published Drivers 65 Pluss: Check Your Performance self-assessment tool that is free to use. Download that senior driving self-assessment test and let them complete it to see how they score.
Use Discretion with Who Broaches the Subject
You’ve known this person long enough to know who in the family can get through to them and who can most certainly not. If they listen attentively to everything their son says but despise their wife, who do you think should do the talking?
Wisdom in who is chosen for this subject needs to be exercised, as does the setting and means by which the message is conveyed.
Utilize the Driver’s Doctor
A trusted doctor who has been seen for years by the driver in question is going to have an opinion that carries a lot of weight with their patients. These people very well may be the starting point for discussing not driving to your loved one.
Should the doctor notice the cognitive issues, physical limitations, or vision problems that are likely to cause a vehicular accident in the future, they very well may tell the patient that they are to avoid driving altogether.
Utilize Whoever Manages the Estate
Whether it’s an elder law attorney, estate specialist, or somebody else, money talks, and that may be the mouth your loved one chooses to listen to. After somebody has spent their life working, they want to ensure that their affairs are in order for when they die.
Part of this involves drafting a will, creating an estate plan, establishing a trust, and so on. Wouldn’t it be a shame for all that work to be for naught because any stored funds, stocks, or assets had to be sold off to pay for the legal fees involving a car crash?
Should the driver in question die (and perhaps kill somebody else in the process) who will be stuck with all the funeral costs, medical bills, court cases, and stress? The answer: the driver’s family.
The manager of the estate can easily point all the legal (and thus, financial) ramifications of such out.
Utilize the Eye Doctor
Glaucoma, night blindness, and other vision problems are common within older populations, and nobody will argue that one’s sight isn’t important to being a safe driver. Thankfully, most older people regularly visit their eye doctor.
Should the eye doctor notice that their patient’s vision has been impaired enough they may raise the question of driving of their own accord. What a doctor says often has weight to it – more so than many others – and they can serve as a potent authority on when one should stop sitting behind the wheel.
In addition to the eye doctor, your loved one’s primary care doctor may be able to help. We have made the Physician’s Guide to Senior Driving available for free download, so that could hold additional information you may find helpful to get a parent to stop driving.
What About the Loved One with Dementia?
Reports indicate that there are more than 5 million people in America with dementia, and that Alzheimer’s is the most common form.
Depending on how you’re looking at things, this can make your situation either easier or harder. It’s no secret that victims of dementia often experience personality changes, increased aggression, and severe irritability. There’s also no question that people with severe cases of such shouldn’t be on the road.
If one is experiencing hallucinations, impaired judgment, increased aggression, and can’t remember where they are going or how to get there, it is only a matter of time until a serious accident takes place.
Unfortunately, the very nature of dementia makes it so that talking with the person about not driving is going to be ineffective. They’re not going to remember what it is that you told them later on, and in essence, you’re wasting your time by doing so.
Here it’s worth considering somehow removing their ability to drive in the first place. Perhaps the car is sold, it remains “in the shop” for the foreseeable future, a family member borrows it, or the keys go missing. You’re most certainly going to have to ensure you do this in a legal manner – you can’t just sell your uncle’s car – but there are situations where some of these options are feasible legally and morally.
If They Won’t Listen, What Can You Do?
If you’re loved one still won’t listen to your and others’ warnings about why they shouldn’t drive, what are your options? Perhaps it’s not dementia that is the problem here but pain and stubbornness instead.
In these circumstances, one should certainly ask a doctor for advice. They may be able to give a better answer here as to how to put a stop to such foolishness as they undoubtedly field such a question daily.
One can make an anonymous report to the DMV, but that’s most certainly at the far end of the spectrum of available options. Your family member is bound to think highly of your doing such – and yes, they are liable to conclude that it was you who contacted the authorities on them.
The License is Gone. Now What?
After you’ve ensured your loved one is no longer driving on the road, what do you do then?
This is easy. You love and care for them. You’re their family and that is your job. You don’t just swoop in like a tornado from out of town, make it so your dad can’t drive anymore, and then catch the next plane back to Houston as you leave your dad a prisoner of his own home.
Depression is likely to accompany the removal of one’s ability to drive. It’s the loss of independence and an upsetting start to a new chapter of life that nobody truly looks forward to. One is forced into a state of dependence on the charity and convenience of others, and if you’ve ever been in such a position before, you understand how it results in things not happening on your time schedule – if at all.
Removing somebody’s ability to drive isn’t just vaporizing what was once there. It’s to take on the responsibility for this person. While the loved one may very well have the cognitive function to make their own arrangements, schedule their own rides, and so on, if they’re not, you have a newfound responsibility as a family member.
It’s going to involve helping them with grocery shopping, taking them to medical appointments, assisting around the house, ensuring they can get to church, and so on.
Perchance time or space doesn’t always permit you’re being able to tackle such responsibilities first-hand, thankfully there are plenty of options which are able to help. Here are a few of them:
- InstaCart – This is a service that delivers groceries door-to-door. All that is required is for the customer to select which items they want from the grocery store, to pay for them in app, and then wait for the groceries to get to their house.
- HungryRoot – If going through and selecting which groceries they want online isn’t a feasible option, HungryRoot can serve as a nice alternative. A grocery subscription service, here customers simply wait for a large box of food to be delivered to their home full of pre-planned meals. No shopping involved.
- Uber, Lyft, and Taxis – If a loved one needs to get to a doctor’s appointment across town and you’re wrapped up in a meeting at work, one of these options could serve as a great alternative. The set-up process is relatively straightforward – and at least for Uber and Lyft – rides are affordable.
- Church Congregants – Should you and your loved one attend different churches on Sunday, you should have no problem with finding another congregant at the other church who will be willing to take your loved on to and from church. This is a very common practice.
- Local Hospital Transport Teams – Many hospitals offer transportation services. Check around with your local hospital and you may be surprised at what you can find.
Get a Parent to Stop Driving Final Thoughts
This is by no means a fun discussion to have but it is a discussion that needs to take place nonetheless if you have a loved one that has become unsafe on the road. Thankfully though, you’re not blazing any trails here. There are plenty of other people out there who have trod this path before, and they are bound to have good advice on the subject.
Hopefully, you will have found that the above is informative as well. What are your thoughts on the situation though? Are there other tips and tricks you’ve experienced through such a time that you would like to share with others? Let us know in the comments below!