As we get older and we develop health conditions that affect our eyes and ears, as well as our cognitive functioning, everyday tasks become more difficult for us and that includes driving.
However, broaching the subject with someone that you care about is difficult. If you feel that your elderly parent (or relative) has become a hazard to themselves and others, then you have a responsibility to start a conversation with them about their driving safety.
Unfortunately, this usually only happens after an ‘incident’. I’ve written a lot on this site about my elderly father – I had to persuade him to stop driving after he accelerated by accident into a fence. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but we were all shocked and thought about how it could easily it could have been worse, had it involved others or taken place on a major road.
If you’re unsure how to go about this delicate subject, don’t worry. I’ve detailed how to go about it in this article, advising on the legalities around the elderly driving and how to have the conversation.
Ideas on How to Stop an Elderly Parent or Relative Driving
The biggest fear that elderly people have is loss of independence, which is why many people continue to drive longer than they should.
Here are some of the ways you can encourage them to stop driving – or at least drive less often, or less far at first.
Encourage Your Elderly Relative To Use Public Transport
It sounds obvious, but public transport may be an option if your relative realises that it’s far better than it used to be (and also more sociable). Most areas have regular bus routes that’ll take you from village to village, or into the main town.
Something that may make this option more appealing is that in England when you reach 65 (60 in Wales) you become eligible for a free bus pass supplied by the Government, plus they’ll never have to pay for parking!
Very often, you can be dropped off in the centre of towns where cars can’t go, or where parking is usually a nightmare. If it helps, take a few trips with your relative to show just how ‘easy’ this can be.
One of the best things I ever did was get my dad advance first class tickets to go to a nearby city for a day out. First class sounds extravagant, but the tickets can be very inexpensive if you get them in advance. You often get a free meal or snack, tea and coffee, table service and a guaranteed comfy seat – he absolutely loved it. It can go a long way to persuade your elderly relative that trains aren’t perhaps what they remember from the 70s!
However, sometimes someone may have difficulty using public transport. In this case, there may be a community transport service available to them. This can help with door to door trips, or even outings to shopping centres.
If your relative lives in a rural area where public transport isn’t as reliable, then taxis or apps like Uber are always a viable option too! This also gives you peace of mind as it’s something you can arrange for them and you know that someone will be with them, at what time and that they’re taking them exactly where they need to go.
The gist of the above is that you can still get to where you want to go, whenever you like.
Get Extra Support for Elderly Relatives who Drive
If you’re worried about them driving, but they’re insistent that they’re fine and they want to continue, then mobility centres offer information, advice and assessments regarding driving mobility, with their aim being to help older drivers continue for as long as is safe to do so.
Your elderly parent or relative can be referred to a mobility centre by their GP if they have a condition that could affect their driving, although some centres allow self-referrals. These centres will assess their driving ability and offer advice as to next steps, which could be to continue driving or to take some time off to relearn skills.
This will give you the confidence that a professional has assessed your relatives driving and has deemed them safe to do so. Or, if it goes the other way, then you’ve got further evidence to support your argument that your relative should stop driving.
Some organisations offer information geared specifically to the elderly to help them with their driving skills, including leaflets and posters. There are also plenty of videos detailing essential information for elderly drivers and interviews with families whose elderly relative has given up driving, which can help reassure your relative that they won’t necessarily lose their independence just because they’ve given up driving.
Ask for Outside Help
If your elderly relative really isn’t listening to you and refuses to see the issues they may cause themselves or others, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many charities such as ageuk, will offer advice on approaching the conversation with your relative.
You can always go to the GP too, although GPs often won’t tell the elderly to stop driving unless it down to a medical issue, as they don’t want to break the trust the patient may have with them as it may mean that they won’t report issues that may prevent them from driving in the future, which could be serious.
However, the GP may be able to offer information and advice when it comes to starting the conversation. Many elderly folk will trust their doctors and will heed their advice.
Having The Conversation
Starting the conversation with your loved one is often the hardest part as you don’t want them to think that you’re attacking their character, or that they’re not capable of looking after themselves.
Before starting the conversation, imagine yourself in their situation and think about how you’d feel if you had to give up driving and how it would impact your day-to-day life. Empathy is key – after all, it will happen to us all, one day!.
Choose a calm moment – if you’ve just argued over something else “age related”, it’s not the best time! Let your elderly parent know that you are only bringing this up because you care about them and want them to be safe.
Remember to listen to their concerns as you’d want them to listen to yours. Asking them to give up driving is a big ask – so perhaps rather than demanding a complete, sudden stop, you may want to ask them to reduce their driving and take public transport twice a week, for example.
Try and offer solutions, such as the ones mentioned above, that will allow your loved one to keep their independence and let them do the things that they enjoy. Encourage them to think about the bigger picture and how they may be putting not only themselves at risk, but also other people too.
Ensure that you’re remaining positive throughout the conversation and approach it sensitively and tactfully. Your loved one may get upset or defensive and may even feel humiliated, if this is the case stay calm and remain supportive. If the conversation becomes too difficult, break it off and revisit it another time.
In my own experience, my father who was 86 at the time, considered himself a good driver – and he was. However, there were a number of telltale signs – lack of feeling and dexterity in his feet meant he wasn’t as accurate with the pedals. After reversing into a fence, he decided to stop as he lost his confidence.
It was actually a relief to him, to have the conversation – sometimes your elderly relative might be thinking the same thing, and they just need another opinion to persuade them that it’s OK to stop driving.
What Happens If Your Elderly Relative Refuses To Stop Driving?
If your elderly parent or relative refuses to stop driving, realistically there is nothing you can do – they are adults, after all. Only the driver or the DVLA can stop them driving – this is covered below – but if you are extremely concerned then there is another option.
You can anonymously write to the DVLA about your relative’s dangerous driving, the DVLA may then follow up with the local police who will assess the safety of the public. This is an extreme option and one that you will have to think very carefully about.
Although the written letter will be anonymous, you must think about how doing this will affect your relationship with your elderly relative if they were to find out that it was you. This is the last resort, and before even considering this you should be sure that you have tried every other option available to you.
What Is The Law Around Older Drivers?
Legally, it might surprise you to learn that there’s no set age limit as to when an older person must stop driving as long as they don’t have any medical conditions that will affect their ability.
However, when someone turns 70 they need to get their licence renewed with the Driver Vehicle Licence Agency (DVLA) every 3 years, but they do not need to retake their driving test.
The DVLA will send out a D46P application around 90 days before their 70th birthday, or they can renew their licence online (source: GOV.uk).
Health Conditions And Driving
If your relative has developed a health condition, or one has worsened since they’ve had their licence issued, then the DVLA must be informed. Many people worry that this will mean they won’t be able to drive, but that’s not always the case.
It’s a legal obligation for certain medical conditions to be disclosed to the DVLA, and if you have an accident and haven’t declared a condition then it’s possible that your insurance won’t cover you. The conditions that must be disclosed include:
- Diabetes (insulin related)
- Any chronic neurological condition, such as multiple sclerosis
- Any condition that affects your eyes
It’s important that you ensure your elderly relative has disclosed any conditions to the DVLA and their insurance holders, even if it means that they may have their licence revoked, as they could be a danger to themselves and others.
Sometimes, the DVLA will issue a licence that shows special controls are required to help with driving, or they may issue a licence for 1, 2 or 3 years and reassess your condition after this time period. You can disclose conditions on this page.
Overall, this is always going to be a difficult conversation, but ensuring your loved one knows that you only want the best for them and their safety is bound to make the conversation a lot easier. I hope this advice has helped!