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How can I stop my father driving?

17 answers | Last updated: May 02, 2015
ra_20_August2014 asked...

How can I stop my father from driving under doctor's orders? My father lives in North Carolina and his license has been revoked, but he refuses to accept that he can't drive. He has early dementia, and even though the doctor tells him not to drive every time he sees her, he refuses to accept it. We have hidden one set of keys, can't find the other set, and I'm thinking of moving the car or disconnecting the battery. Are there other steps I should take? My sister and I have power of attorney, and she says we can possibly be held liable if he has an accident. Is this true?


98% helpful
Connie Matthiessen answered...

It sounds like you're doing your best in a very difficult situation.

Since your father refuses to listen to you, the DMV or his physician, you have no choice See also:
What do you do with a stubborn old man who won't take care of himself?
but to take away or disable his vehicle.

To answer your question about whether you and your sister could be held liable if your father has a car accident: this depends on the laws in the state where the accident occurs. In general, the answer is no: you and your sister are not liable, even if you have power of attorney.

There is one exception: An adult child could be held liable if the parent were driving the adult child's car, and if she loaned the car knowing the parent had problems that made him a driving risk. To learn more, you should consult your state department of motor vehicles.

In any case, it sounds like the situation is serious enough that you should do whatever you can to get your father off the road for the safety of everyone concerned.


More Answers
87% helpful
vacation answered...

After physically taking the keys away, I had my husband pull the fuses out. We also notified AAA not to respond to any calls he put in (which he did) as well as put a note under the hood of the car "do not repair". It was the hardest thing I have yet had to do for him but in my heart I know it was the right thing. He has somewhat subsided on the issue after 3 1/2 months, but it was very, very traumatic with lots of drama for 3-4 weeks, so be prepared to withstand the backlash.


86% helpful
Tryn Rose answered...

I just advised a friend with the same good advice here. My addition is this:

if the person who can't drive anymore is still interested and able to enjoy being out and about in the world, please provide rides for him or her, yourself, or through a professional service, or a friend. It's a huge transition from independence to needing assistance for everyone involved; alleviate helplessness, loneliness and boredom by helping this person stay engaged in life as long as they can. The time will come when they will be done traveling in the world; until then, live and bring life-giving actions which will benefit all of you.


86% helpful
crissybel answered...

My heart goes out to you. I was in the same position. I had someone disconnect something under the hood that wouldn't be obvious. Then the car required towing, which Dad wasn't willing to undertake.


100% helpful
EGLord answered...

I had our family doctor tell my husband it was no longer safe for him to drive and that he would send a report to the State Motor Vehicle office to let them know. Then I came home, took the keys, and sold his car so there was no reminder for him to see every time he went out into the garage.

Ethelle Lord Remembering4You.com


75% helpful
LonnieJ answered...

There are agencies that will provide companionship by trained personnel , which includes driving. The cost is minimal and your loved one can remain independent and stay in charge. You will have peace of mind knowing someone is taking care of your loved one.


91% helpful
cotton1960 answered...

If you have power of attorney, you can (and should) sell the car. Anything short of that will leave open the possibility that he will be able to get it operational.


100% helpful
anonprofessional answered...

Disabling the car may be your best bet to get the result your after with minimal trauma to your Dad. I have not done this myself but if you report your parent as an unsafe driver to the local police they may be willing to come to the home and speak to him directly about the dangers. They will also let him know that since they are aware of the safety concern they have a responsibility to pull him over if they see the car on the road. This may be a more extreme tactic, but one you may consider taking if all else fails.


100% helpful
iluvmy5kk answered...

Unfortunately, this is an all too common problem. My Dad felt he was losing his independence and that is a very normal reaction. In time he came to accept this decesion and realized it was for the best. My Mom, on the other hand, came to me and said she no longer wished to drive. I have a feeling that since this was before we knew she had Alzheimers she had simply gotten lost. Little did we know that soon all would become clear. Mom had ALZHEIMERS. I am grateful that she realized she should no longer drive.


100% helpful
yaneo answered...

I went through this issue with my Father; I took care of him for two and a half years at home. He THOUGHT he was o.k. to drive, but some of his physical conditions precluded that; so, I made myself available to him at all times for shopping, banking, haircuts, an afternoon out to lunch or dinner; took him for rides, which he really enjoyed; when he driver's license renewal came, I consulted his gerontologist, made an appointment, and the doctor put him through an extensive neurologic and medical exam, shook his head and said..."no more driving"; he asked me if I wanted him (the doctor) to tell Dad; I said "no"; so, after the appointment, Dad and I went to lunch, a drive, some shopping, and then home; the renewal was on his desk, never opened (I have it to this day; Dad passed in 1998); and I sat down and discussed the issue with Dad (he so enjoyed driving and I knew I was taking something precious away, but it had to be done), he listened to me; took my hand and said: "Honey, whatever you say, I know you know best." It broke my heart. Soon after, he went to Hospice and passed away.

His safety and the safety of others was on my mind even though I knew it would hurt to take that license. I am 70 and I know how I appreciate the privilege of my license. I can only hope I am well enough to drive for some years to come but if I became a danger to myself and others....the license has to go. I only hope someone would be kind enough to help me with all my needs.

God bless you, Dad.....


100% helpful
laralu answered...

This is such a hard one..my prayers are with you.

One thing that helped us, I gave Mom a set of old car keys from a car I used to have. She feels better just having them in her purse. If she would ever try to drive, they won't work.

My Mom still reads and I have a pad where I put down her appointments, whose coming to visit and when, etc. I could tell her those things several times, and she forgets, but if I write it down, she looks at that open pad and remembers well.

Instead of telling your Dad he can't drive, perhaps you may write it down (short and easy to read) and refer him to it when he gets anxious about driving.


100% helpful
Laura33 answered...

In Wisconsin we have can report someone anonymously, which I had to do for my mother. It was easy and she was sent a generic letter stating she needed to retest. She did, 4X and still did not get her license back. Now my Dad shouldn't be driving and lives in Arkansas and I haven't been able to find out if I can report him. It was so nice to let the government take it away. I think all states should have this. He has a caregiver like someone else mentioned but it is very expensive $20.00/hour that can take him anywhere.


100% helpful
cookielady answered...

My siblings and I sent a letter to Dad's primary care Doctor outlining are many concerns, one being his driving. The Doctor did go over our concerns when I took Dad for an appointment. When it came to the driving the Doctor told him if four grown children don't think you should drive the driving needs to stop ASAP. Well Dad has since fired his primary care Doctor and is still determined to drive. We contacted the local police and we were advised to disable the vehicle and not remove it from the garage, because Dad could have us arrested for theft. Which my Dad would do.


ValerieJ answered...

I'm having the same problem with my husband right now. I keep explaining to him that he's having episodes of confusion and he shouldn't be driving right now until he gets better. He accepts and agrees, then a few hours later is asking for the keys and insisting he can drive. He has dementia for at least a couple if years but has been quite functional. A recent bac problem, medication and stress sent hi into a tailspin to the point at times he doesn't know where he is or who I am. This is so hard. I tried hiding the keys but he keeps asking for them and gets angry. I'm trying the truck with the old car keys to see if that works.


Send a Hug or Prayer
100% helpful
/people/975392 answered...

Yes, you can be held a accountable ,because your father is not in the right state of mind , you and your sister should have his car tolled an
storage and make it look like someone stole it, this is for his safety and your peace of mind do now asap means right away so you and your sister do not go to jail okay, Jacqueline Lee


Holding the bag answered...

Going through this with my father right now. He has twice in the last three months driven hours (and hundreds of miles) to places where he has no business. One time he was left of center and had a wreck at 11 pm, the other time he realized he was lost and flagged someone down. He claims to have no memory of these incidents - denies them and becomes angry when either city is mentioned.

He adamantly insists he is fine and plans to continue driving. I hid keys, disabled cars, and left his wrecked truck 150 miles away. He repeatedly called taxis to take him to car dealerships and finally managed to buy a replacement. I filed paperwork with the DPS to have him retested and he passed both medical exams, but now has decided to not appear for his mandatory driving test. His license will be revoked in two weeks and he doesn't care - he keeps saying that the state can't control him. He has moments of confusion but is otherwise alert - the ability to drive is a very big deal to him. My sister, who lives out of state, plans to call the police on him once his license expires. Although some of his driving is random, he has a routine that she knows and she will have no difficulty picking the right moment. The world would be a safer place if he was in the big house, but leaving him there longer than 24 hours seems excessive.