“Two months ago a neighbor was killed by an older driver. Now I can’t stop thinking about my own mom and her driving. I know that she shouldn’t drive anymore. She has what seems to be early stages of Alzheimer’s (although, she is in denial). She also drinks heavily and seems to be making lots of questionable decisions. The other day she left at 1:00 a.m. for her 2:00 p.m. doctor’s appointment. I have tried talking to her about driving, but she thinks there is nothing wrong. What can I do?”
It is very difficult to talk to our loved ones about driving. Telling someone they are no longer safe to drive can result in hurt feelings, resentment, and arguments. Not addressing it can be deadly.
What does giving up driving mean for older adults?
- Giving up driving is very emotional. It can signal a loss of independence, especially if they live outside of a major city without easy transportation; and it is a judgment against their ability and worth in society.
- Driving is often an important part of a person’s identity, especially after decades of being behind the wheel.
- Losing the ability to come and go on a whim often leads to isolation, decreased activity, and reliance on other people.
- Knowing all of this and feeling no hope for an alternative can result in fear, anger, and depression in the older adult.
How do you approach an older adult about driving concerns?
There is no easy way to have this conversation, but it must be started. First, note any concerning signs that a loved one should stop driving. Record incidences of delayed response to unexpected situations of difficulty maintaining the correct lane, hitting curbs, getting dents/scrapes on the car, feeling noticeably less confident while driving, forgetting what to do at stop signs/lights, getting lost on well-known routes, and times of becoming easily distracted while driving. Second, ask your loved one to consult their physician and eye doctor and to receive a driving evaluation about their driving abilities. Bring up your concerns of safety— for the person driving as well as for others on the wheel. Be firm yet compassionate in your approach, and don’t be afraid to take drastic measures to remove the keys, access to the actual car, and the person’s driver’s license.
Where can you find more help?
You can find additional resources and support here:
- AARP’s We Need to Talk, a free online seminar developed jointly with the Hartford and MIT AgeLab. It can help guide you through what steps to take by providing you with tools to begin a casual conversation about driving, tips on engaging an older driver in self-evaluation, and possible solutions for your loved one’s transportation needs.
- AARP’s Smart Drive Course, an online seminar that addresses driver safety, provides a driving assessment, and tips on public transportation.
- AAA’s Senior Driver provides a wealth of resources.
- Georgia’s Older Driver Task Force
- Georgia Department of Public Health, Older Driver Services
What else can you do?
- Seek a Formal Driver Evaluation from one of these local organizations:
- Submit a Driver Review request to the Department of Driver Services to initiate the medical revocation process.
We know that this conversation and transition is difficult. Please do not back down or shy away from this hard topic—doing so could cost someone their life. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at (404) 843-0121.