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  • Writer's pictureRoch Clapp

How to Get a Senior to Stop Driving When it is No Longer Safe

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

Ms. Soyer
Ms. Soyer

If you have discovered that a senior family member is no longer able to safely drive, the question becomes how to get them to stop driving.  For many people driving is a freedom that they are not willing to give up.  It provides a senior with a sense of independence and control and the loss of that independence is scary.  Generally, when the time comes to ask a senior to stop driving, the senior is also dealing with health and cognitive issues and is already feeling afraid, depressed and overwhelmed.  Asking a senior to willingly give up driving can further wound a senior’s self-esteem and cause a senior to feel offended, hurt and defensive.  To begin the process of approaching a conversation with a senior it is a good idea to prepare a list of reasons why it is no longer safe for the senior to be driving.  Document any concerns you have while observing the senior drive to review if needed when discussing the matter with the senior.  Any discussion with the senior needs to be approached respectfully and it is imperative that you recognize how difficult it is for them to consider giving up driving.  It may take some time for the senior to accept such a large life change and it could take multiple conversations. 

If a senior is not willing to stop driving after such conversations, there are other ways to stop the senior from driving.  The family can reach out to the senior’s primary care physician to determine if the physician believes the senior has the cognitive and physical ability to continue driving.  If the physician feels the senior is no longer safe to drive, he or she can prepare a statement that the senior should no longer drive and send it to the Idaho Department of Motor Vehicles (the “DMV”).  The DMV will send a letter to the senior stating that he or she must relinquish his or her driver’s license.  The senior can and should replace the driver’s license with a state issued identification card.  It is best to have the physician visit with and assess the senior within six (6) months of issuing such a statement to the DMV. 

If the physician is not willing to prepare such a statement, the family can request that the physician order and refer the senior for a clinical driving evaluation at the Driving Program at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation.  Part of the Driving Program at St. Luke’s is a pre-driving assessment where a specially trained occupational therapist assesses the senior’s visual, perception, cognitive and motor response skills to determine how the senior will react to a variety of situations on the road.  There is also an on-road driving evaluation to assess the senior’s skills.  St. Luke’s will send the results to the primary care physician and/or the DMV as to whether the senior is capable of driving safely or not.  If the senior is not capable of driving, the DMV will contact the senior and demand that he or she relinquish his or her license.  This program allows an independent and neutral third party to make the determination as to whether the senior is safe to drive. 

If all else fails and the senior is still driving, the family can try to remove the car from the situation or disable the car (such as disconnecting the battery).  This option can backfire as the senior may be able to determine how the car is disabled and fix it or try and borrow another person’s car.  The family can also provide an anonymous tip to the non-emergency line at the respective police department regarding the senior’s driving or location.  The police may perform a welfare check to determine if the senior is putting himself or herself in danger or the public in danger. 

As mentioned above the best way to approach a senior with your concerns is in a respectful and gentle manner.  If a senior loses his or her license and is upset or angry, providing the senior with the option to revisit the possibility of driving again or re-taking the clinical driving evaluation in six (6) months can provide the senior with some hope and alleviate some of the anger.  It is also advised to come up with alternative transportation options for the senior so he or she can get around after he or she stops driving.  The loss of independence is a main reason most seniors continue driving even though it is no longer safe.  By providing a senior with various ride share, senior center, Uber, Lyft, taxis, public transportation or other transportation options, it allows them to stay connected with friends and active in the community.  Knowing all the alternative transportation options and coming up with a plan will reassure the senior that he or she will still be able to have their independence.

Give a senior time to accept the changes and the space to work through their feelings.  It may take some time for a senior to make peace with the loss of his or her driver’s license.  The senior needs your continued support, respect and empathy during this process.

This article is not intended to replace legal advice applicable to your situation and should be used only for informational purposes.  Consult with your legal or tax advisors before implementing any suggestion contained herein.  Ms. Soyer is an associate attorney with the firm of Sandra L. Clapp & Associates, P.A. and can be reached at or (208) 938-2660.

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