We can all think of someone who’s out on the road when they shouldn’t be. America just isn’t built for people who can’t drive—how will they buy groceries or get to the doctor’s office? Talking to someone about giving up driving is a big conversation that needs to be handled with grace and empathy.
When someone is ‘too old’ to drive, they’re putting themselves, their passengers, and the public at risk. Of course, safe driving isn’t about your age, it’s about vision, hearing, reaction time, navigation, and overall health. There are plenty of medical conditions and certain medications that make it unsafe to drive. If you notice scrapes on the bumper or a dent in the garage, those can be signs of serious driving risks. Ask your loved one to drive the next time you’re out running errands together to get an idea of whether or not it’s still safe for them to be on the road.
Bring it up early
Start a dialog about safe driving before it becomes an issue. Rather than waiting until it’s a serious danger and then asking them to go cold turkey, ask them to cut back. Work with them to figure out how adapting their route can keep them behind the wheel a little longer.
Try having them:
- stick with familiar routes,
- avoid long distances,
- stay home in bad weather,
- avoid traffic, and
- only drive during the day.
Acknowledge that this is a big deal
Driving isn’t about transportation, it’s about freedom. Cars are often tied up in people’s identities. People have so many memories with their cars—getting their license, buying their first car, exploring new places. Acknowledge that this is more than a practical decision; this is a loss of dignity and independence.
Start with someone they’ll listen to
Plenty of parents aren’t keen on doing what their children tell them to do. Having their attorney, minister, or an old friend start the conversation could save you from a struggle.
Work with the professionals
You may be able to have the DMV or their doctor request that they go in for an eye exam and save you the trouble of being the bad guy. This is a common issue that they’ve dealt with before. Some states require that doctors report to the DMV if they are unable to drive because of their health. Every state DMV has its own policy for handling drivers who are dealing with medical issues.
Don’t leave them stranded
Be ready to provide them with alternative transportation options, especially if there isn’t public transportation in your area. Shopping can be delivered. Friends can take them out. Tech-savvy folks can take Uber to their appointments. Some areas even have senior shuttles and volunteer drivers. Here are our guides to driving alternatives in the United States, Canada, Ireland & the UK.
There’s even the possibility of selling their car and using the proceeds of the sale—and what you would have spent on insurance and maintenance—to cover the cost of alternative transportation. Don’t just leave the car in the driveway to taunt them.
Sometimes the end of driving signals the need to move. Some places just don’t work without a car. Senior communities cater specifically to meet this need, but there are plenty of ways to make sure people can get around without a car, like moving in with family, finding a place downtown, or getting closer to a reliable transit route.