Apr 282012

Are your elderly parents still driving? Driving is one of the hardest things to give up in our society. Getting your license was more than a rite of passage. It was your ticket to freedom and independence. With a set of wheels you could go anywhere and if you live outside of a major metropolitan area then driving is necessary for getting to work, shopping and going to medical appointments. Is it any wonder our elders hate to give it up? It is one more sign that they are getting old and raises the specter of decline and dependency on others.

For families and caregivers it can be a tricky situation. They may not live close enough or have the time to drive their parents to doctor appointments, the grocery store and other activities. Bringing up concerns about an elder person’s ability to continue to drive can lead to arguments and hurt feelings.

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA) study, older drivers are second only to the very youngest drivers for their rate of accidents and fatalities. It is a serious situation.

Some factors to consider are the facts that aging tends to result in a decline in strength, coordination, flexibility, slowed ability to process, problems with memory, decline in hearing and vision, slowed reflexes, and decreased range of motion. Some medications and illnesses also make driving a hazard.

So what should you do if you are concerned about your parent’s ability to drive? First of all, be respectful. Express your concern that maybe something is compromising their ability to drive safely. Maybe they need to have their vision or hearing checked. Maybe you have noticed they cannot turn their head far enough to check for traffic or they might not have enough strength or coordination to switch between the gas and the break. Be specific with your concerns and suggest a checkup with the appropriate health care professional.

Consider an evaluation by an occupational therapist. There might be some modifications that can be made to allow your parent to continue driving such as a knob on the steering wheel, hand controls for gas and brakes, etc. It might also be that limitations may need to be placed such as daytime driving only. Caregivers might also suggest a senior driving program or an evaluation by Driver Rehabilitation Specialist.

If it is no longer safe for your elderly parent to drive you will have an easier time convincing them if professionals confirm this for you and they know you have made every effort to help them keep the privilege. Also, there is strength in numbers so partner with family members or close friends. Help them find viable alternative transportation such as public transportation, elder transportation or even hiring someone to drive them around.

What do you do when they still refuse?

If appropriate evaluations and recommendations have been made and there is fear for the safety of you loved one and/or others, there are other steps you can take. Make an anonymous call to the Department of Motor Vehicles, have a law enforcement official talk with them, take their keys, disable the vehicle or perhaps sell the vehicle.

These steps may be hard for you to take but not nearly as hard as the consequences that could occur should your parent kill or injure themselves or someone else.


  14 Responses to “Elderly and Driving”

  1. But still what do you do when they still refuse? They are not as easy to convince sometimes and next day is a new battle?
    Lapiceros Ecologicos

    • No it isn’t. Envolving law enforcement is a last step but better than having them injure themselves or someone else.

  2. What is your position on states creating laws that mandate that they elderly be “re-tested” for their driving skills on a regular basis?

    Yours In Health!

    Dr. Wendy
    Kettlebells, Chiropractic, and Back Pain

    • It might be a good idea to have everyone retested periodically! I have to agree with the law. Of Course that may change in a few more years. :)

  3. Great post!
    When my aunt’s eyesight deteriorated enough to prevent her form driving, the rest of the family helped her sell her home and found her a place in town where she’s within walking distance of stores and places to meet friends. Turned out to be a great move for everyone and she’s even more active than before because she’s not so reliant on the vehicle.

    Thorne Smith movies

  4. Loosing independence is like loosing your life blood.
    Safety of everyone is important!
    Looking forward to tomorrow 
    Do you suffer from caregiver stress?

  5. Hi Suzanne,
    I know in Spain after certain age you have to do a test every single year.
    I remember my friend’s grandmother. She drove untill she was 95 and she passed the test with very good grade every time!

    Dejar de fumar sin Ansiedad y sin Engordar

  6. My 89 year old client’s family doctor took her driving priveleges away and she’s still mad about it. I am not sure she could have passed a driver’s test if she were required to take one, especially with her dizzy spells. She’s safer not being behind the wheel and I feel that’s the #1 issue for elderly drivers.

    Sabrina Peterson, NASM CPT, CES
    Fat Loss and Fitness 101

  7. This is a very emotional and difficult issue to resolve … you offer great advice.

  8. Suzanne,
    Do you think it is a good idea over certain age a sign to be posted? Same like “Baby on board”. May be something like: “Elder Driver” or “I am over 70″.

    Body Language: Truthful Legs

    • LOL! That won’t happen! At least not in Florida….where most of the population is over 70. Unless having the sign gave them a senior discount or something. Then they might!

  9. My Mom is 92 and still drives. Doesn’t travel very far, lives in a small town, never had an issue. But she has already told me, the minute she feels like she’s not in control, she will have no problem giving it up. I’m lucky-my father was not so easy.

    Thanks for the timely reminder.
    Be Well.

  10. the DMV re-tests that most States require should be illegal due to their ease – too many times i have seen people get their license renewed because they can read an eye chart even thouugh they are a deadly accident waiting to happen.

  11. Thanks for the tips!

    Musician Profit System

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