Dangerous Senior Drivers

What to Do About a Dangerous Older Driver
stoplight

What should you do if you've monitored your parent's or other aging family members' driving and are persuaded that they pose a risk -- but they refuse to stop driving? Many older adults elect to stop driving proactively if they suspect they're developing driving problems or someone mentions the issue. Others stubbornly insist that their driving is as good as it ever was and tune out anyone who tells them differently. If you have a family member who refuses to acknowledge the problem, try these strategies:

Talk to Family Friends

If you've had no luck persuading your parent or other family members to give up the car, see if family friends can help. Research shows that older drivers are more likely to listen to those outside the family when it comes to their driving. Be discreet, and consider their feelings. Talk to only their closest friends: people they trust and whom you know have their best wishes at heart. Find out if these friends share your concerns. If they do, they may be willing to talk to your parent or other family members themselves.

Talk to Your Loved One's Doctor

Let your parent's (or other family members') primary care physician know that you think he should stop driving but refuses to do so. Under privacy laws, a physician must have a patient's permission to share personal health information, so unless you have medical power of attorney, the physician won't be able to discuss his health status with you. But you can still write or telephone the physician and inform her that you believe your parent should stop driving and why. The physicians can examine him with this information in mind, and if she agrees with your assessment, may be willing to advise your parent to stop driving. (A number of states now require physicians to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles if a patient is diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another health condition that could affect driving safety.) If a family member's vision is compromised, you can also contact his eye doctor.

File a Report With the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

If it doesn't work to talk to family friends or physicians, or if these steps don't yield results, you can file an unsafe driver report with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. (Police officers and physicians can also file unsafe driver reports.) Contact your state's DMV to find out the exact procedure, as rules vary from state to state. DMVs generally take such reports seriously, although many are too understaffed to respond quickly. Your letter should include your reasons for making the complaint, as well as information about how authorities can contact your parent or other family members. Be as specific as you can when outlining your reasons for believing that someone poses a driving risk.

After receiving a complaint, the state agency will contact the person and request a medical evaluation. The agency might also require a driving test. Depending on the findings of these evaluations, they could either restrict his license (some elderly people cannot drive on the highway or at night, for example) or revoke the license altogether.

Take More Serious Steps

If the person you're concerned about has a cognitive problem and can't understand the danger he poses to himself and others, you may have to take more extreme measures. Some adult children have resorted to having their parents' car disabled or found ways to make it disappear; others have hidden the car keys -- and have never found them. In The Driving Dilemma, Elizabeth Dugan cautions adult children to use such "extralegal steps" only in cases where there's a clear danger and the driver is incapable of understanding the risk.


Connie Matthiessen

Constance (Connie) Matthiessen, senior editor, has worked as a healthcare and environmental journalist at the Center for Investigative Reporting and has written for WebMD, Consumer Health Interactive, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, BabyCenter. See full bio


about 1 month ago, said...

My father 85 has end stage copd with heart issues. He is lucid, but gets bouts of anger and confusion. I reported him to the DVLA.. His GP gently refused to give him a letter. I do feel guilty. I believe I did the right thing to prevent an accident but I am sad and I wish thrre was a better way.


4 months ago, said...

B4blonde - So sorry to hear about your difficulties with your Father. It's possible that your Father is feeling like you might be taking away his control, and that is very scary for people his age. How did you manage to move back in with them? Did they invite you? It's possible that he is locking up the meds so that your Mom can't get them. Are you friends with their insurance agent? Are you insured with the same agent? If the answer to both questions is yes, meet privately with the agent and ask for their help in convincing your Father to stop driving. It sounds like he might be a hazard to the public when he drives. Have you ridden with him as a passenger, without commenting on his driving ability? Do this on a short errand, and see if he really is a hazard on the road. You could check your DMV/BMV website to see if there is a form to request an evaluation of his driving skills. Most states offer this, as this situation has become increasingly common. Most states allow family members to turn in the form anonymously. It is also possible, but not likely, that the accidents were someone else's fault - have you check with the police reports on the accidents? How is your relationship with your Mom? Even people with Alzheimers have times of clarity. Maybe in one of her times of clarity, you could have a family meeting over a meal, or while you are still sitting at the table after a meal. Do you have siblings? Include them in the meeting, but meet with them beforehand to make sure you are all in agreement about the situation. It's easy for us to see that things need to be done differently, or better in our own opinion, but we need to make sure that our parents understand deep down that we are not trying to take things away from them, we are trying to help with the caregiving load. I went through this situation for 6 years with my parents, although they were in an Independent Living apartment, rather than living with me. It takes time, and you have to go very slowly in order to be sure that your Father still feels like he is in charge. Take care - you are in my prayers, I do know how difficult this is. I was lucky, I was my Parent's youngest and had spent lots of time with them in my adult life, so of all my siblings, they trusted me to take good care of them. It was a joy, even when the struggles are taken into account. Looking back, it was the best sacrifice I have ever made in my life to be there for them when they started to lose their freedom.


4 months ago, said...

My mom is 76 w alzheimer & my father us 82. The problem is he refuses to stop driving. I now live w them in their house. He has had several accidents & at least 2 very bad accidents. I have tried to get him to stop by offering to be his chauffer but he becomes very angry violent & tells me to leave the house or he will throw me out. He refuses to let me monitor my moms meds & keeps them under lock & key. I really need help. What can I do?


7 months ago, said...

If you have a sibling acting as trustee who has taken a parent to the doctor for neurological tests and the doctor states no more driving and the sibling continues to allow them to drive, does this sibling have legal liability?


about 1 year ago, said...

My grandfather had his driving privileges revoked due to poor eye sight. We knew there was a problem but when getting gas one time he accidentally got into the wrong vehicle to try and start it. He has always been very independent. When we visit he will allow us to drive him around but my grandmother will tell us that he is still driving. What resources are there for people in situations like this?


about 1 year ago, said...

My Father is 75 years old. My Father have mental problems and disability. My Father and I was driving one day. My Father drove on the red light and we almost got heat by another car. My Father was driving the car at that time. I try to ask my Father to stop driving but he won't listen to me. I love my Father very much and I don't want him to get heart. What should I do? Please help?


about 1 year ago, said...

Widdim. Trying to explain to a person wth dementia is like trying to toilet train a 3 month old baby. Think worst case scenario. If you don't take the car away AND TAKE AWAY the ability for her to purchase another, you could be considered liable for her actions by being aware of what she is doing. Take her into the DMV, get her an ID card instead of a DL, take away the DL, and take away the car. She cannot purchase a car without a DL. Let her insurance agent know she can no longer drive. If she gets angry, with the dementia, it won't be for long. If you're worried about what people think, ask them if they want her driving on their kid or grandkids street. Are you sure she is safe in her home? It may be time for in home care, or for an assisted living 'vacation'. Chances are, she's not eating properly or taking medications properly.


about 1 year ago, said...

My mother in law has had her drivers license suspended, has I insurance and lives in Canada, she is 95 and lives alone and has dementia. We have disabled her vehicle but she had a mechanic fix it. The police have.been contacted and spoke to her but can only do something if she is caught driving. We need help with this. My husband doesn't want to take car away feels she will just buy another, any ideas? I am afraid she could kill someone pls help! Thanks.


about 1 year ago, said...

What concerns me if lay person can initiate a medical recall of one's driver license.


over 1 year ago, said...

My 75-year-old mother was adamant that she keep driving, she didn't want to be a burden to anyone by asking (we would be fine; its in her head though) so I suggested she take a driving course to ensure the safety of others around her, she did it. I took her to 911drivingschool.com/drivers-education-adults and it was the best thing ever, taught by patient police officers. maybe it should be a law that everyone at a certain age retake the course.?


over 2 years ago, said...

I have an 80-yr.-old friend who lives in California. Her license has been revoked because she is a terrible and dangerous driver. She continues to drive. Can anything be done to get her to stop?


over 3 years ago, said...

Elderly driveers can be pretty dangerous


about 4 years ago, said...

I am a productive, very healthy senior who tutors math students, plays violin in a wonderful symphony orchestra and have a pristine d5riving record of 68 years~~~ all came to a screeching halt when the DMV perpetrated a horrible scam and no explanation!!!!!


about 4 years ago, said...

Sharonsue38 - what a caring person you are! There are ways to report the person to the DMV, who will then bring them in for specialized testing. I live in CA, so I am most familiar with their system - had to use it for both my parents to get them to lose their driving privileges. Go to your state's website for DMV (dmv.ca.gov for CA), and search on driver safety forms. In CA, it's called 'Request for Driver Reexamination'. Fill it out, sign it (unsigned forms are ignored), then they should get on it pretty quickly. My Father's was revoked without needing to come in for testing. My Mother came in for testing, and because of her dementia, she failed. Dad said it was age discrimination, Mom didn't really understand. Once the license is revoked, if you see your neighbor take his car out, call the police and they'll pull him over and arrange to take the car away from him. The DMV will work to keep your identity confidential, but if the records are subpoena'ed, they will have to reveal whom it was that turned the person in. Chances are your neighbor is too far gone to go to that effort. Thank you for thinking of public safety!


about 4 years ago, said...

he has a lot of medical problems. he falls trying to get in car when he does get he runs into all kinds of things.he pulls out in front of things I will gladly take him any place he needs to go please tell me what to do it is getting dangerios for him to drive .


about 4 years ago, said...

I am so worried about my neighbor. he hits things with car. he is a very nice guy but his living condition is terrible and he has no family to help


about 4 years ago, said...

I live right across from ernest long. my other neighbor has went i9n to apt and found him on floor for more than 4hrs. I have found him half under his car from falling on concrete getting trying to get him car I have called 911 and they put him in rehab.when he comes home he gets back into car to drive. when jhe does drive he runs into things backs into things. he also pulls out in front of drivers.i am so afraid he is going to kill himself or someone else. he has no family to help him Please help us to help him. I will gladly take him where he needs tgo go