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Mom Is a Scary Driver



"My siblings and I are concerned about our mother’s driving. She’s 92 now, and she is simply no longer a safe driver. She pulls out in front of others, drives much slower than the speed limit, and doesn’t see very well anymore. We’d like her to surrender her driver’s license sooner rather than later, but she won’t have it. We’re afraid for her and everyone else out there in her path. Do you have recommendations as to how we can convince Mom to stop driving? We’ve promised to be her drivers whenever she needs." - READER



Still driving in one’s 90s is quite an accomplishment. It’s great that she is out and about and independent, unless you’re in her path, it seems. Due to the normal changes in the body for most at that age, it wouldn’t be uncommon to discover she should no longer get behind the wheel.

Driving represents independence—the freedom to come and go as she pleases. Giving it up is one of the most difficult losses for an elderly person. Understanding how important driving is for her will help you approach this task with facts and compassion alike.

I recommend taking a few short trips as your mother’s passenger. Note how she responds to oncoming traffic, parking in tight spaces, backing up, braking abruptly and other situations that require quick thinking. Jot these things down.

After the trips you will have concrete examples of her driving to share with her. You and your siblings should all be on the same page, but only one of you need to have a conversation with her during which you share your observations. You cannot expect this conversation to be easy or simple, and you can expect her to resist and dispute your findings.

Come to the discussion with solutions. Suggest cabs, or a smartphone with a ridesharing app, and let her know this is the trendy thing to do these days. She may not accept this, but she’ll have something to think about. See if you can even get her to try the app for her next few trips to the store, or her next doctor appointments. And like you mentioned, you and your siblings can also offer to take her where she needs to go.

Some children hide keys or resort to other nefarious ways of stopping their parent from driving. Often, this happens when the parent has some form of dementia. Your mother sounds a bit too sharp for that kind of approach.

You can report an unsafe driver to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and they will usually ask the driver to retest. However, many states have open records laws which would make the reporter’s name available to the driver. I do realize that there are times when it becomes necessary, but doing this can cause quite a rift in the family.

Hopefully, your mother will listen to reason and come to accept the need to stop driving. If you give her viable solutions, the loss of wheels will be less traumatic. This is never an easy situation, and the only real way to deal with it is head-on. I wish you success on this journey.