My aging parent’s driving is now a safety issue… What can I do? *
This is a difficult question that many caregivers face. The Federal Highway Administration reports that drivers age 70 and older experience more motor vehicle fatalities than any other driving group other than the drivers who are under the age of 20. Aging affects everyone differently and often there can be a decline in physical and cognitive abilities.
This being the case, children are often concerned about a parent driving when it is no longer safe for that parent to do so. As you may know, there is no mandatory age for taking away someone’s license. Therefore, legally, what can a child who is concerned about a parent’s safety do?
Ideally, the parent will recognize the safety issue and give up driving voluntarily. This was the case of my grandfather. My grandfather was able to ride a motorcycle until he was 90. Subsequently, his reflexes declined and at 92, he understood his limitations and voluntarily gave up his license. Unfortunately, other seniors, despite frequent accidents, refuse to give up the independence driving brings to them.
First, it is important to understand that change is not easy for most people and that giving up something significant such as driving can be very difficult. For this reason, speaking with your parent about this issue and giving your parent a reasonable amount of time to process the possibility of losing his/her license can be more effective than just telling them that it needs to happen now.
Considering the Safe Driving Checklist provided below sooner rather than later can also be helpful. Beginning the process with limiting night driving and introducing your parent to alternate forms of transportation resources can also be useful.
If despite your efforts to convince your parent otherwise, your parent continues to drive, you may want to discuss the issue with his/her physician. A doctor can do a test of his/her physical and cognitive functionalities and discuss with your parent how these functionalities if impaired may impact the ability to drive safely. A healthcare provider can also notify the Department of Motor Vehicles that your parent should be tested.