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How do you know when it’s time for your elderly parent to stop driving?
The last time I drove with my dad he made a left turn without his blinker on – from the right lane. He drove under the speed limit on a busy street, oblivious to the loud honks all around. When we were a mile from home, he turned on his right blinker which confused the car behind him. Dad was always a good driver, however, he is 89 years old now and things change. I live out of town and rarely drive with him, so I was unaware he might no longer be capable of driving safely. I felt guilty that I did not address the situation sooner. Clearly it was time for dad to give up his keys.
Age to take the keys varies depending on the situation
When you take away car keys, you take away independence. It’s therefore not a simple decision for anyone. And age alone is not a good reason to require an elderly person stop driving. Some 90 year old individuals still handle a car well, while some 70 year olds do not. So how do you know when it’s time? For starters, consider the factors that might affect your loved one’s skills. Age-related changes in hearing and vision, possible side-effects from medications and the decline of cognitive function (the ability to reason) can affect reflexes and skills. Next, take a casual drive with them to a familiar location so you can observe how they drive.
12 specific warning signs your aging parent should stop driving
- Drive too slowly
- Too slow to brake
- Confuse the brake and gas pedals
- Delayed reactions
- Other drivers honk often
- Drive too closely to the car in front
- Unable to easily read road signs
- Do not follow pavement markings
- Can’t turn their head easily to check their mirrors
- Not sure how to get to familiar places
- Easily distracted
- Close calls or accidents
OK, you know it’s time to take the keys. Now what?
Once you recognize your elderly parent is no longer a safe driver, you need to talk to them about it. This conversation is among the most difficult to have with a parent. Stay strong and know this is the right thing to do. If they get behind the wheel, they might hurt themselves or others. It’s best to have this essential conversation sooner rather than later, before an accident happens. Some older adults recognize they need to stop driving and give up their keys willingly, but many, perhaps most, do not. They may be offended, defensive or angry, which is understandable. A car is a symbol of independence and control – without it, your loved one may feel trapped and afraid.
If they resist, how do you convince them it’s time? Find helpful answers here.