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What to do when your parents shouldn't be driving anymore

You probably look back with fondness on your driver's education, and your parents were probably key to your learning. Driving represented freedom and independence to a younger version of you. It probably represents the same thing to your aging parents. 

The problem is that we age. As we grow older, mobility and other physical functions can begin to decline. Eventually, this will impact your parents' ability to drive a car. Medical issues like stroke and vertigo could also make driving a vehicle difficult and dangerous.

If you believe your parents shouldn't be driving anymore, you need to take the time to talk about it.

Taking away the keys can be a difficult topic to approach, but remember you're doing this out of concern for your loved one and others on the road.

Try to be compassionate and remember how it felt to get your license. Losing it, and all that it represents, must be a difficult process. Do you best to approach this calmly, in a private setting, and anticipate upset reactions, even anger. After all, if your loved one's ability to drive is compromised, they could cause a serious accident. Liability and personal injuries could be an issue.

There's no set age for when people should stop driving

How seriously aging impacts an individual varies widely based on a number of factors.

  • Is one or both of your parents genetically inclined toward degenerative conditions, like Alzheimer's disease?
  • Is there a history of stroke, narcolepsy or confused thinking?
  • Have you noticed signs of visual impairment? 
  • Have you noticed a general slowing of their reaction time?

Some people experience reduced comprehension, reaction time and motor function at younger ages, while some people in their 90s remain spry. If there is reason to believe that your loved one could lose control of the vehicle, fail to react to a child in the road or experience confusion that could result in an accident, it may be time to hang up the keys.

Concrete examples can help bring things into perspective

Many times, the thought of losing one's driving privileges is terrifying. It can also feel insulting. Make sure your loved one understands that you don't want him or her to get hurt in an accident. Also discuss how other people could be put at risk.

Referencing recent events that underscore how aging may have impacted the ability to drive may help, but be kind in how you phrase things. Most importantly, present your loved one with a viable alternative for staying mobile and active. Promise to provide transportation or help connect your parent with nearby public transportation or driver's services.

You may need to take special steps

The reality of the situation is that they are your parents. They may refuse your help, but does that mean you must back away? No. You can get outside help if your parents refuse to stop driving.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has the authority to revoke a driver's license when a person is no longer able to drive safely. Everyone older than 75 must renew their licenses in person. The DMV can then choose to request a review process, which may involve eyesight and other tests.

However you have to approach the issue, the sooner you take action, the less potential for harm there is to your parents and others in your community.

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