Discussing driving less or stopping driving

Driving retirement can be:

  • Planned in advance: Early conversations can identify transportation alternatives that would work well, if older drivers need or choose to drive less in the future.

  • Gradual: As older drivers' health, abilities and preferences change, they start driving less or avoid driving under certain conditions to ensure their comfort and safety.

  • A rapid response to an emergency: An accident, serious incident or clear pattern of increasing driving problems leads older drivers to stop driving completely, perhaps after others get involved.

Having early conversations about driving can encourage the older adult to plan for driving retirement and, if needed, gradually limit driving. Good conversation starters in these situations include sharing driving facts, asking the older adult to share any feelings about or plans for driving, or mentioning friends' or family members' driving experiences.

Dealing with emergency situations is even more difficult if you hadn't previously discussed driving.

If you're convinced that the older adult needs to stop driving, make clear how concerned you are. Describe the particular incidents you're responding to, and say how dangerous it could be for the older adult and others if they don't stop driving. For example:

  • "I need your help with what just happened. Can we talk?"

  • "You keep having trouble finding your way to the store and back. What would happen if you got lost driving and couldn't find help?"

  • "This is the third time this month you've had a close call or accident. I'm worried about your safety on the road."

  • "I'm afraid to get in the car with you, or to let your grandchildren ride with you."

  • "I'm concerned that you might be seriously injured in an accident, or even hurt someone else. I know you would feel terrible if something like that happened."

It can help to involve others who the older adult respects and trusts in these conversations.

You might be able to get help from health professionals, law enforcement officials or motor vehicle departments. However, many health professionals avoid telling their patients that they can't drive. Health professionals may feel that they don't have enough information about their patients' driving, or may not want to damage their relationship with their patients.

In extreme situations, some people resort to taking away the keys or disabling or removing the car. If you are in this situation, tell the older adult you are only trying to keep them safe and that you will help them find other ways to get around. Acknowledge that the older adult might be angry with you and not trust you for a while. Explain that you would rather have them be upset with you than have them become seriously injured or harm others in an accident.