How to know when a parent should stop driving

It can be difficult for both you and your elderly parent to have a discussion about giving up driving privileges. A driver’s license is an important symbol that represents independence and self-sufficiency. Therefore, the issue may be emotionally charged for your parent.

What is important to remember when preparing to have the discussion is that it is not age alone that determines whether or not someone is capable of driving. If that were true, teenagers would automatically receive licenses on their 16th birthdays. What is important is the ability of the driver.

A driver’s ability may become impaired at any time for a number of reasons. However, the natural changes that occur in an aging body or brain can decrease an elderly person’s driving ability. When this happens, it often becomes necessary for family members to intervene before the elderly driver becomes a danger to self and others.

It can be helpful to start making plans long before it becomes necessary for your parent to give up driving. This discussion can be more fruitful if you and your parent both recognize the warning signs that indicate that he or she no longer has the ability to drive.

  1. Inappropriate speed for road conditions: This may include driving either too slow or too fast.
  2. Delayed response to unexpected situations: Your parent may experience frequent close calls as a result.
  3. Dents or scrapes on garage, mailbox and/or car: This can be doubly worrisome if your parent is unable to tell you how they got there. However, try to determine whether he or she is unable to tell you or merely reluctant to do so.
  4. Hitting curbs: This is likely to occur when backing up or making right turns.
  5. Difficulty maintaining the correct lane: A related issue is a difficulty with lane changes.
  6. Increased distraction: Drivers of all ages can become distracted, but if your parent starts becoming distracted more easily when behind the wheel, it may be time to stop driving.

Observing and pointing out these objective warning signs may make it easier to convince your parent that he or she no longer has the ability to drive a car safely.