Taking Away the Car Keys: Last-Resort Tactics

If you're caring for someone who's no longer safe behind the wheel, and you've tried talking to him and getting backup but he still refuses to stop driving, it's time for some last-resort tactics.

Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles

Call your state Department of Motor Vehicles and find out how to file an unsafe driver report, as rules vary from state to state. Your letter should include your reasons for making the complaint (be as specific as possible) and information about how authorities can contact the senior driver. Police officers and physicians can also file unsafe driver reports.

What the DMV will do

After receiving a complaint, the state agency will contact the driver and request a medical evaluation. A driving test may also be required. Depending on the findings, his license may be restricted or revoked altogether.

Will the person know it was you who reported him?

Some states keep the identity of the person who files the report secret; others do not. If your state doesn't, remember that it's better to have an angry older adult or family member than an injured one.

What if he keeps on driving?

With luck, he'll accept the reality that he can no longer drive -- if not when you talk to him about it, then after his physician raises the issue or his license is pulled by the DMV. But some older adults do insist on continuing to drive, with or without a license, either because their reason is clouded by dementia or out of sheer stubbornness.

Taking more drastic measures

If you find yourself in this situation, you may have to take his car away, hide the car keys, or disable the vehicle so it cannot be driven. Obviously, these are extreme measures that should only be used if all else fails and there's no other way to protect his safety and the safety of passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians.

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