How Do I Ask Mom To Stop Driving?

Tips to consider if you believe that it’s no longer safe for your loved one to drive.

Does your loved one’s driving cause others to change lanes to get out of the way? Does he or she drive on the wrong side of the road, go dangerously slow on the highway, or drive in the center of two lanes?

As the population ages—and because the physical changes that come with aging make driving more dangerous for the elderly—the issue of confronting elderly parents, relatives, and friends who are no longer safe drivers is a problem that will continue to grow.

It can be difficult to tell if your loved one has driving difficulties, but one of the most obvious signs includes excessive dents in his or her car. Don’t depend solely on your loved one or his or her doctor to tell you about possible problems. Additionally, it doesn’t make sense to rely solely on a state driving agency, as individuals with certain types of problems (e.g., slow reflexes) can still pass a driving test. Yet, if you are concerned about your loved one’s driving, his or her doctor and the state agency are good places to gain some useful information.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it is very difficult to talk with a loved one about his or her driving—and it’s even harder to ask that he or she no longer drive. Therefore, it is often easier to start by discussing the topic with a doctor who can assess your loved one’s muscle strength, eyesight, reflexes, and general overall health. Additionally, you might want to find out about state-specific driving regulations and recommendations for impaired or elderly drivers.

If you decide that your loved one’s driving is dangerous, approach the topic carefully. Remember that driving is linked to independence, so if you decide to approach your loved one, try to make a caring request (e.g., Dad, I’ve been a little concerned about your car because it has many dents and scratches on it) rather than a command (e.g., Dad, I think that you are too old to drive because you keep hurting the car). If you anticipate that your loved one will disagree with you in an extreme fashion, you might want to try video-taping him or her driving and showing the tape to your loved one. It may also help to have his or her doctor talk directly with your loved one about driving.

Regardless of who broaches the subject, it should be a person that your loved one is comfortable with, and it should be done in a respectful way. In many cases the discussion of your loved one’s driving and possible alternative transportation options will be an ongoing conversation. During each conversation, be patient and firm. After all, your loved one may be coping with what he or she perceives as a loss of independence, but his or her safety and that of others is ultimately the most important issue.

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