When To Stop Driving

007aI stopped driving a number of years ago, at age 49, due to my limited eyesight. It was a devastating experience. After thirty-two years of independence and freedom of mobility, I was suddenly faced with the reality of a whole new way of being in the world. I felt stranded and vulnerable. To live outside the security of a private bubble with a steering wheel put me in alien territory.

This page will be developed as a resource for those dealing with the driving to non driving transition and their friends and family. Below are links that I hope you will find useful on your journey.

 Letting Go Of The Wheel: An American Dilemma

Assessing Elderly Drivers: Ability Means More Than Age

Senior Driving: Safety Tips, Warning Signs, and Knowing When to Stop


As the Roads Turn Gray, Ways to Make Driving Safer

Driving Safely As We Age



Assessing Elderly Drivers: Ability Means More Than Age

How To Know When It’s Time To Hang Up the Keys

Published: 11/13/2012  – by Kathleen Doheny

The ranks of elderly drivers are large and growing. About 33 million licensed drivers in the U.S. are over age 65, up more than 20 percent from a decade ago.

Thanks to their sheer numbers, some stereotypes about the failings of older drivers are fading. Yet safety concerns persist, especially after news reports of elderly drivers’ crashes, such as one at a farmers market in Santa Monica, California, in 2003, when an 86-year-old man drove into a crowd, killing 10 and injuring 63.

About 5,500 adult drivers age 65 and older die each year in vehicle crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s double the number of teens killed annually in vehicle crashes.

It is understandable, then, that the question is still with us: When is it time to hang up the keys?

Experts say there is never an easy answer, nor one that will work for everyone. These days, however, there is much more help than in the past to guide you with the decision, whether you are the aging driver or the loved one of an elderly driver who may no longer be driving safely.

Experts know, for instance, which age-related changes most compromise driving, and what can be done to compensate for them. A variety of driving evaluations — in car and out — are available online and from specialists. Some states even step in to monitor older drivers, reducing the time between license renewals.

There’s also a new approach to “the talk” that adult children have with an aging parent, and it promises to make everyone less uncomfortable and inspire a more productive conversation.

Think Abilities, Not Birthdays

Deciding how long a person should continue driving shouldn’t be based only on birthdays, according to Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit organization.

“We believe driving safety is a function of driving ability, not your age,” he says. What counts most, he says, is what he terms your “medical fitness to drive.”

Jodi Olshevski, a gerontologist at The Hartford insurance company, agrees. “Usually if a person has a difficult time driving, it’s due to some underlying health condition, not age,” she says. “It’s more about health, not necessarily the number of birthdays you have had.”

Nelson says there is no baseline age at which drivers or those who care about aging drivers should start monitoring their skills. However, he suggests paying attention to warning signs of declining diving ability. These include frequent fender-benders, being honked at often by other drivers and frequently getting tickets for moving violations. A good time to assess driving, he adds, is when retirement planning starts in earnest.

The States and Older Drivers

Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration has a medical advisory board that assesses medical fitness to drive in those who may be impaired.

Nelson says it’s a model system. Drivers with certain conditions (including stroke, epilepsy and autism) must be medically reviewed. Doctors, family and concerned citizens can also request a review of drivers they fear are unfit to drive.

Other states, he says, have ”a patchwork of laws” on the question. As of September 2012, 28 states and the District of Columbia had requirements specifically for older drivers, according to a tally by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

These include such requirements as accelerated renewal. In Colorado, for example, regular licenses are good for 10 years. At age 61, it drops to five years.

But in Illinois, accelerated renewal doesn’t begin until age 81, dropping from four years to two for renewal intervals. Texas doesn’t step up renewal intervals until drivers are 85, when they have to renew every two years. Many states require in-person renewals after a certain age.

Compensating for Challenges

Age does bring some declines that affect driving. Chief among them are night vision that is less sharp, declining mobility that can make turning around or craning your neck difficult, and slower reaction times.

Drivers can compensate for some of the age-related changes, Nelson and Olshevski agree. Being aware of the decline is crucial, of course. Research suggests that aging drivers, rather than being in denial, are aware of their physical shortcomings. They recognize, for example, that strength, reach and dexterity could be declining with age, making it difficult to turn around to check for traffic or pedestrians.

In surveys, Olshevski says, older drivers told her that driving at night was a big concern, due to the declining night vision that comes with age. The majority of older drivers, she has found in her research, will voluntarily modify their driving to stay safe. They’ll cut out night driving, for instance, or make other changes such as avoiding heavy traffic times if that makes them anxious.

Besides modifying driving habits, paying attention to overall health can help aging drivers stay safe behind the wheel, Olshevski says. “Be a healthy driver,” she says. “Get regular physicals. Assess the side effects of your medication.”

Exercise also is important, Olshevski says. Older adults can ask their doctors about resistance or weight training to maintain the muscle tone and strength that safe driving require.

Automotive technology can help compensate, too, Olshevski says. Among those that are most useful for aging drivers are reverse monitoring and back-up cameras, blind-spot warning systems and other crash-avoidance technologies.

Technology “won’t ever replace turning around and using the rearview mirror,” she says. But it can help fill the gaps.

Older adults can enroll in a mature driver safety course to brush up on skills, Olshevski says. One example is the online AARP Driver Safety Course. As a bonus, auto insurance plans may give a discount on the premium for drivers who complete the course. Fees vary. In California, for instance, AARP members pay $15.95. For non-members, it’s $19.95.

Having the Talk

No one looks forward to that talk with an aging parent or other loved one about whether they need to hang up the keys. However, approaching that conversation a bit differently can make all the difference, Nelson says. Forget the typical conversation starters, such as “Mom, it’s time for you to stop driving.”

Nelson suggests first riding with the person you are concerned about. While in passenger mode, take note of the positives and the negatives about your loved one’s driving.

When you’re ready to talk, focus not on whether the driver should hang up the keys, but on mobility and the continued need for it. Talk about where the person needs to go, and when. Talk about alternatives to driving, such as mass transit or cabs or someone picking them up.

Ideally, Nelson says, you should have the talk years before the declines that affect driving set in. It’s a much more positive — and probably productive — approach, he says.

More help on broaching the subject is available in a downloadable booklet, “We Need to Talk,” developed by The Hartford.

Getting Outside Opinions

It’s difficult to be objective about a loved one’s driving skills. Outside opinions can help everyone. Among the options is a do-it-yourself online test from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Some occupational therapists and other driving rehabilitation specialists offer driving evaluations. These professionals have focused on driving assessments for decades, says Mary Johnson, an occupational therapist who runs a driver rehabilitation program at The New McLean, a senior living facility in Connecticut. She requires a doctor’s referral, to ensure that the driver’s physician is aware of the situation.

The three-hour assessment includes evaluation of vision, thinking and motor skills. Johnson takes aging drivers on the road, too. She may refer them to other specialists such as physical therapists or eye doctors to address the situation that’s hindering their ability to drive safely.

Costs for the evaluations vary greatly, but typically range from $200-$400, Johnson says. Insurance or other programs don’t always reimburse these costs. Johnson recommends asking about financial aid. Her program awards scholarships based on financial need. Other programs often have a sliding scale.

For referrals to these driving rehab specialists, the American Occupational Therapy Association has a list of driving rehab specialists. So does the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. 

“My goal is to keep people driving,” Johnson says. Often that is possible, and her assessment and suggestions give the aging driver more years of independence. If it’s not possible, she calls it like it is — and knows that she’s given family members the peace of mind that comes with taking the right action.





As the Roads Turn Gray, Ways to Make Driving Safer

IT’S called the gray tsunami, the great wave of aging baby boomers nearing retirement, making older adults the fastest growing segment of the population. And by 2030, the roads will be full of them.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of people 65 and older is expected to double, growing from 35 million in 2000 to more than 71 million in 2030. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety projected that by then one in four drivers will be 65 or older, statistics that have safety experts studying how cars and the drivers themselves will need to adapt as the roads turn gray.

At the AgeLab at M.I.T. in Cambridge, Mass., for example, there are at least 20 aging studies looking at such factors as driver fatigue, the impact of technology inside the vehicle and how emotions and medications affect driving. States are also redesigning intersections to make them less confusing for older drivers. And organizations like AAA and AARP are advising older drivers about how to measure their abilities and are evaluating their cars to determine what adjustments need to be made to counter a driver’s physical limitations.

Loren Staplin, a managing partner of TransAnalytics, a consulting firm specializing in transportation safety research and development, said that older people were usually superb drivers because of their lifetime of experience. But as a consequence of aging, vision, mental and physical abilities often decline, Dr. Staplin said, making it “more difficult for them to drive safely.”

Many of these factors are being studied at the AgeLab. Miss Rosie, a Volkswagen New Beetle, is a mobile lab used for research into how flexibility and strength affect driving performance. Miss Daisy, another New Beetle, and the AwareCar, a Volvo, are wired to track eye movements and to measure pulse, alertness and stress levels, as a measure of the kind of physical changes older people undergo while driving.

Joseph F. Coughlin, founder of the lab and director of the Department of Transportation’s New England University Transportation Center at M.I.T., said the findings could change how cars are designed. Cars of the future, he said, may have computerized dashboard displays where the driver could choose a type size and font that was easier to read, and could be customized to show only the information the driver found useful. There may also be collision notification systems and a way to route medical records ahead to the ambulance after a crash. A computer inside the car may someday adjust how it operates, depending on the physical weaknesses and range-of-motion limitations of the driver.

“The driving experience is about to become profoundly personal,” Dr. Coughlin said.

Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, cautioned that not all technology is appropriate for older drivers. She said technologies like lane departure warning systems; cruise control that maintains a set distance from the vehicle ahead; and systems where the driver receives a warning from a flashing light or a vibrating steering wheel (like blind-spot warning systems) may not work well with older drivers.

“There is concern that if systems require a response or attention, it may cause cognitive overload or distraction,” she said.

What many experts do agree would help older drivers is changing the design of roads, especially intersections, where drivers often have problems judging speed and distance. So some states are redesigning them. They are installing left-turn lanes, left-turn signals, street signs well before the intersection and replacing eight-inch traffic lights with 12-inch ones.

The Road Improvement Demonstration Program, started by AAA Michigan and financed by state, county and local governments, made some of these changes at nearly 400 intersections. An analysis of the first 84 completed in the Detroit area showed the injury rate over a two-year period for older drivers was cut by more than half, compared with the rate for drivers 25 to 64 years old. And the rate of left-turn collisions involving seniors dropped 73 percent when a left-turn signal was installed.

Bella Dinh-Zarr, the North American director of Make Roads Safe, a nonprofit organization based in London, said making roads more senior-friendly had been “scientifically proven to save lives,” adding, “Many are simple, inexpensive things that can be done when updating.”

Of course, cars can change and roads can be improved, but older drivers also need to assess themselves and know when it’s time to stop, or limit, driving. Dr. Staplin of TransAnalytics said many older drivers self-regulate by reducing their driving at night, in bad weather or in heavy traffic.

To help older drivers assess their abilities, AAA offers the at-home “Roadwise Review” screening test. It’s a computer program that leads drivers through exercises that measure eight areas, such as memory and visual processing speed, said Dr. Staplin, whose company designed the program.

Merry Banks, manager of special projects for AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah, said one driver refused to give up his license, even after his family and doctor pleaded with him. “Nobody could convince him,” she said. But after doing poorly on the program, “He said ‘O.K., I’m not going to drive anymore.’ ”

Along with assessing the abilities of older drivers, AAA has joined with the AARP, American Society on Aging and American Occupational Therapy Association to develop a program called CarFit. It is a 15-minute free consultation that determines how well drivers fit their own vehicles and identifies ways to make the cars more functional and safe.

Volunteers go through a checklist to determine if the driver can adjust mirrors properly to reduce blind spots and whether they can see over the steering wheel.

Occupational therapists sometimes suggest installing devices like a steering wheel cover to improve grip for people with arthritis or pedal extenders for a person unable to reach the accelerator and brake.

Debbie Coplin, 80, and Bob Kent, 87, were among the about 50 residents of Carolina Meadows, a continuing care retirement center in Chapel Hill, N.C., who attended a CarFit clinic in March.

“I’m short, so I’m always worried about air bags,” Mrs. Coplin said. (A driver sitting too close to the steering wheel can be injured when an air bag deploys.) “After much measuring and discussion,” she said, her seat was adjusted slightly so she would be farther from the wheel.

Mr. Kent said the session confirmed what he already knew. “Probably my biggest weakness is neck flexibility. I can’t twist around as much as I’d like to. Mirrors become much more important.”

Frank Cardimen, president of the Traffic Improvement Association, a nonprofit traffic safety agency in Oakland County, Mich., said the association had recommended improvements at intersections to help the elderly. He said his inspiration to help older people stay mobile safely as long as possible comes from his father’s experience a few years ago when he stopped driving.

“My father died at 85, but he really died at 80,” Mr. Cardimen said. “He was the most active, funny, enthusiastic person, just a jewel. We tried everything possible to offset that loss of freedom, that quality of life, but there was nothing we could do,” he said. Seeing him “just watching TV and eating, waiting to check out, was heartbreaking.”

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Senior Driving: Safety Tips, Warning Signs, and Knowing When to Stop

Safe Senior Citizen Driving

As we age, it’s normal for our driving abilities to change. By reducing risk factors and incorporating safe driving practices, many of us can continue driving safely long into our senior years. But we do have to pay attention to any warning signs that age is interfering with our driving safety and make appropriate adjustments. Even if you find that you need to reduce your driving or give up the keys, it doesn’t mean the end of your independence. Seeking alternative methods of transportation can offer health and social benefits, as well as a welcome change of pace to life.

In This Article:

How aging affects driving
Warning signs of unsafe driving
safety on the road
Life without driving
Talking to seniors about driving concerns

Senior driving tip #1: Understand how aging affects driving

Everyone ages differently, so there is no arbitrary cutoff as to when someone should stop driving. However, older adults are more likely to receive traffic citations and get into accidents than younger drivers. In fact, fatal crash rates rise sharply after a driver has reached the age of 70. What causes this increase? As we age, factors such as decreased vision, impaired hearing, or slowed motor reflexes may become a problem. You may have a chronic condition that gradually worsens with time, or you may have to adjust to a sudden change, such as a stroke.

Aging tends to result in a reduction of strength, coordination, and flexibility, which can have a major impact on your ability to safely control a car. For example:

Pain or stiffness in your neck can make it harder to look over your shoulder to change lanes or look left and right at intersections to check for other traffic or pedestrians.
Leg pain can make it difficult to move your foot from the gas to the brake pedal.

Diminished arm strength can make it hard to turn the steering wheel quickly and effectively.

As reaction times also slow down with age, you may be slower to spot vehicles emerging from side streets and driveways, or to realize that the vehicle ahead of you has slowed or stopped.
Keeping track of so many road signs, signals, and markings, as well as all the other traffic and pedestrians, can also become more difficult as you lose the ability to effectively divide your attention between multiple activities.

You may have driven your entire life, and take great pride in your safety record. But as you age, it is critical that you realize your driving ability can change. To continue driving safely, you need to changes can happen, get help when they do, and be willing to listen if others voice concerns.

Senior driving tip #2: Know the warning signs of unsafe driving

Sometimes unsafe signs can come up gradually, or a recent change in health may hasten problems. Even if the individual warning signs seem minor, together they can add up to a substantial risk. If you are concerned about your own driving or worried about a friend or loved one, keep an eye out for these warning signs:

Issues with health

Health problems don’t always mean that driving needs to be stopped, but they do require extra vigilance, awareness, and willingness to correct them. Some health problems include:

Conflicting medications. Certain medications or combinations of medications can affect senses and reflexes. Always check the label on medications and double check with your healthcare team if you are taking several medications or notice a difference after starting a new medication.

Eyesight problems. Some eye conditions or medications can interfere with your ability to focus your peripheral vision, or cause you to experience extra sensitivity to light, trouble seeing in the dark, or blurred vision. Can you easily see traffic lights and street signs? Or do you find yourself driving closer and closer, slowing by a sign to see it? Can you react appropriately to drivers coming from behind or to the side?

Hearing problems. If your hearing is decreasing, you may not realize you’re missing out on important cues to drive safely. Can you hear emergency sirens, or if someone is accelerating next to you, or honking the horn?

Problems with reflexes and range of motion. Can you react quickly enough if you need to brake suddenly or quickly look back? Have you confused the gas and brake pedals? Do you find yourself getting more flustered while driving, or quick to anger? Is it comfortable to look back over your shoulder or does it take extra effort?

Problems with memory. Do you find yourself missing exits that used to be second nature, or find yourself getting lost frequently? While everyone has an occasional lapse, if there’s a pattern that is increasing, it’s time to get evaluated by a doctor.

Issues on the road

Trouble with the nuts and bolts of driving. Do you see yourself making sudden lane changes, drifting into other lanes, braking, or accelerating suddenly without reason? How about failing to use the turn signal, or keeping the signal on without changing lanes?

Close calls and increased citations. Red flags include frequent “close calls” (i.e., almost crashing), dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, and curbs. Increased traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers.

Senior driving tip #3: Maximize safety on the road

Aging does not automatically equal total loss of driving ability. There are many things you can do to continue driving safely, including modifying your car, the way you drive, and understanding and rectifying physical issues that may interfere with driving.

Take charge of your health

Regular check-ups are critical to keep you in the best possible driving shape. Other steps you can take include:

Getting your eyes checked every year. Make sure that corrective lenses are current. Keep the windshield, mirrors, and headlights clean, and turn brightness up on the instrument panel on your dashboard.

Having your hearing checked annually. If hearing aids are prescribed, make sure they are worn while driving. Be careful when opening car windows, though, as drafts can sometimes impair a hearing aid’s effectiveness.

Talking with a doctor about the effects that ailments or medications may have on your driving ability. For example, if you have glaucoma, you may find tinted eyeglass lenses useful in reducing glare.

Sleeping well. Getting enough sleep is essential to driving well. If there are problems, try to improve nighttime sleep conditions and talk with your doctor about the effect of any sleep medications on driving.

Find the right car and any aids you need for driving

Choose a vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. Keep your car in good working condition by visiting your mechanic for scheduled maintenance. Be sure that windows and headlights are always clean. An occupational therapist or a certified driving rehabilitation specialist, for example, can prescribe equipment to make it easier to steer the car and to operate the foot pedals.

Drive defensively

In these days of cell phones and digital music players, drivers are even more distracted than they used to be. This means you’ll want to take extra steps to drive safely, like leaving adequate space for the car in front of you, paying extra attention at intersections, and making sure you are driving appropriate to the flow of traffic. Avoid distractions such as talking on the phone while driving or trying to puzzle out a map, even if it’s a GPS on the car; pull over instead.

Make sure you allow sufficient braking distance. Remember, if you double your speed—say from 30mph to 60mph—your braking distance does not become twice as long, it becomes four times as far, even more if the road is wet or icy.

Know your limitations

If a driving situation makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Many older drivers voluntarily begin to make changes in their driving practices. For instance, you may decide to drive only during daylight hours if you have trouble seeing well in reduced light. If fast-moving traffic bothers you, consider staying off freeways, highways, and find street routes instead. You may also decide to avoid driving in bad weather (rain, thunderstorms, snow, hail, ice). If you are going to a place that is unfamiliar to you, it is a good idea to plan your route before you leave so that you feel more confident and avoid getting lost.

Listen to the concerns of others

If relatives, friends, or others begin to talk to you about your driving, it may be time to take a hard, honest look at your driving ability:

A number of self-evaluation tools are available to help. See listings in the Resources section below.

You might choose to brush up on your driving through a refresher course. Safety courses are offered in many communities and online.

Talk to your doctor. Your doctor should also be able to provide an opinion about your ability to drive safely, or refer you to a specialist for more intensive evaluation.

Getting a professional evaluation

An occupational therapist or certified driver rehabilitation specialist can provide a comprehensive evaluation of the skills needed to drive and recommend car modifications or tools to keep someone driving as long as possible. It can also help diffuse accusations from family by providing a neutral third party perspective. You can ask your medical treatment team for a referral, or visit the websites listed in the Resources section below.

Senior driving tip #4: Adjust to life without driving

Adjusting to life without a car may be challenging at first. Most likely, you’ve been driving your whole life and it feels like quite a shock. It’s normal to be frustrated, angry, or irritable. You might even feel ashamed or worry that you are losing your independence. However, it takes a lot of courage to stop driving and put the safety of yourself and others first. You may also find there are many benefits to living without a car that you may not have considered. For example, you may:

Save money on the cost of car ownership, including car insurance, maintenance, registration, and gasoline. These savings can pay for alternative transportation if necessary. In fact, many seniors who only used their car for short trips, often find that using a taxi or shuttle service for those same trips works out costing far less.

    Improve your health. Giving up the car keys often means walking or cycling more, which can have a hugely beneficial effect on your health. Regular exercise from walking and cycling can help seniors boost their energy, sleep better, and improve confidence. It can also help you manage the symptoms of illness and pain, maintain your independence, and even reverse some of the signs of aging. And not only is exercise good for your body—it’s good for your mind, mood, and memory.

    Expand your social circle. While many seniors have difficulty accepting offers of rides from others, this can be a good time to reach out and connect to new people. Find a way of accepting rides that makes you comfortable. For example, you can offer a friend money for gas, or trade off on other chores, such as cooking a meal in return for your friend driving.

   Appreciate the change of pace. For many, stopping driving means slowing down. While that may not sound appealing to everyone, many seniors find that they actually enjoy life far more when they live it at a slower pace. It can also have a beneficial effect on mental health by placing less stress on your nervous system.

Know your transportation alternatives

The more alternatives you have to driving, the easier the adjustment will be. You want to make sure that you can get out not only for essentials like doctor’s appointments, but also social visits and enrichment. Feeling housebound can quickly lead to depression.

This may also be a time to evaluate your living arrangements. If you are isolated and there are little transportation options in your area, you may want to consider moving to an area with more options, or investigate senior living options.

    Public transit. If you live in an area that is well connected with public transit, it can be a very handy way to get around. Check your local public transit options and about reduced prices for older adults.

   Ride sharing. Family members, friends, and neighbors may be a resource for ride sharing. Offer to share the costs or to return the favor in a different way, such as cooking a meal or helping with yard work.

  Community shuttles/senior transit. Your local community may have shuttle service available, especially for medical appointments. Some medical facilities, such as those for veterans, also have transportation options for medical appointments. Your local place of worship may also offer transit options.

   Taxis or private drivers. Taxis may be a good option for quick trips without a lot of prior scheduling. You can also look into hiring a chauffeur or private driver. You can go through a formalized driving service, or sometimes a family member, friend, or neighbor can help. You do want to make sure whoever is driving has a good driving record and is responsible.

   Walking/cycling. If health permits, walking or cycling when you can is a great way to not only get around but also get some exercise. Regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity.

   Motorized wheelchairs. Motorized wheelchairs can be a good way to get around if you live in an area with easily accessible stores and well-paved streets.

How to talk to a loved one about driving concerns

Driver safety can often be a sensitive issue for seniors. A driver’s license signifies more than the ability to drive a car; it is a symbol of freedom and self-sufficiency. Understandably, driving is not a privilege that anyone wants to relinquish willingly. Still, safety must come first.

Some older drivers may be aware of their faltering ability, but still be reluctant to give up driving completely. Another person’s concerns may force the senior driver to act. They may even feel relieved to have someone else help make the decision to stop driving. Some seniors may forget that they aren’t supposed to drive. If that is the case, it is even more important to remove the car or the keys to make it impossible to drive. If you find yourself in the position of talking to an older friend or family member about their driving, remember the following:

    Be respectful. For many seniors, driving is an integral part of independence. Many older adults have fond memories of getting a driver’s license. At the same time, don’t be intimidated or back down if you have a true concern.

Give specific examples. It’s easier to tune out generalizations like “You just can’t drive safely anymore.” Outline concerns that you have noticed, such as “You have a harder time turning your head than you used to,” or “You braked suddenly at stop signs three times the last time we drove.”

    Find strength in numbers. If more than one family member or close friend has noticed, it’s less likely to be taken as nagging. A loved one may also listen to a more impartial party, such as a doctor or driving specialist.
  Help find alternatives. The person may be so used to driving that they have never considered alternatives. You can offer concrete help, such as researching transportation options or offering rides when possible. If your family member is reluctant to ask for help, it can lead to isolation and depression.

  Understand the difficulty of the transition. Your loved one may experience a profound sense of loss having given up driving. Don’t dismiss their feelings but try to help with the transition as much as possible. If it is safe, try slowly transitioning the senior out of driving to give them time to adjust. For example, your loved one may begin the transition by no longer driving at night or on the freeways, or by using a shuttle service to specific appointments, such as the doctor’s.

When a driver refuses to give up the keys

Sometimes an older driver has to be stopped from driving over their objections. It might feel very difficult for you to make this call, especially if the senior is a parent or other close figure used to having their independence. However, their safety and the safety of others must come first. An unsafe driver can seriously injure or kill themselves or others.

If appropriate evaluations and recommendations have been made, and no amount of rational discussion has convinced the driver to hand over the car keys, then you may make an anonymous report to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (in the U.S. or Canada) or talk to the person’s physician about your concerns. In some cases, there is a need to take further actions such as taking away the car keys, selling or disabling the car, and enlisting the local police to explain the importance of safe driving and the legal implications of unsafe driving.

Related Helpguide Articles

Healthy Aging Tips Healthy aging is about much more than staying physically healthy—it’s about maintaining your sense of purpose and your zest for life.

Senior Nutrition – As we age, eating well can be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced.

Sleeping Well as You Age – Older adults who don’t sleep well are more likely to suffer from depression, memory problems, and low energy.

Memory Loss and Aging – Memory loss is not an inevitable part of the aging process. Learn the difference between normal forgetfulness and more serious memory problems.

How to Improve Your Memory – Whether you’re a student, a working professional, or a senior citizen, there are lots of things you can do to improve your memory and mental performance.

Understanding Dementia – Explore the different types of dementia and learn to identify the signs and symptoms.

Authors: Joanna Saisan, M.S.W., Monika White, Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson. Last updated: May 2012.

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