The other day a car was weaving in and out of the lanes. The speeds were erratic, speeding up and slowing down at an irregular pace. As I cautious pulled up to the car, I expected to see a drunk or distracted driver. Instead, I saw a 90-year-old woman who could barely see over her steering wheel.

There comes a time in our lives where driving is not longer a safe option. Most elderly people have no problem driving, but some are a danger on the road. Telling someone, especially an adult, that they should or can no longer drive is not easy. Seniors are just like you and me, and do not like being told what to do. Driving gives them independence, and without it, they become essentially homebound.

What do you do if you are concerned about a loved one who is still driving? How do you broach the topic? Know going into it that it will not be easy, however, it could save lives.

First, evaluate the physical or mental health of your loved one. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does he or she have difficulty driving safely?
  • Does he or she take any medications that could affect safe driving?
  • Does he or she often complain about being dizzy or excessively tired?
  • Does he or she get disoriented easily?
  • What is his or her reaction time? Can he or she easily turn to look at their blind spot?
  • Does he or she have dementia or Alzheimer’s?
  • Does he or she have an eye disease such as glaucoma?
If you said yes to any of these questions, you might have reason for concern. An easy thing to do is get your loved one evaluated by the doctor. Some will recommend that driving stop immediately, while others might recommend day driving and near home.
I know an 85-year-woman who chose to stop driving after a terrifying experience. Her eyesight was declining rapidly, yet she still continued to drive. One day the sunlight was just so that she was essentially blind to everything. She said she “prayed herself home” and vowed to never drive again. She gave away her car and now relies on her family for support to get where she needs to.
If you are telling grandma she cannot drive any longer, you need to be prepared to give her transportation wherever and whenever she needs it. Condemning her to a homebound status without any help is a death sentence and will be met with severe resistance.
If you are scared (and rightfully so), you can have your local DMV be the bad guy. Submit your loved ones name to your local DMV for an evaluation. The DMV will send them a letter requiring them to be reevaluated for a license. If they do not pass, the license will be revoked.
However you decide to deal with an unsafe driver in your family, know that you are not alone. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for more support and connection to senior services.
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