Whether or not an elderly person should be driving is a question we are frequently asked. It is a very touchy subject and most children do not want to force the issue with their parents. Getting a drivers license is a rite of passage that most teenagers look forward to. Having to give up that license can be very difficult. It affects a person’s independence. When a person has to surrender their driver’s license, they suddenly are dependent on others to get around. Going to the grocery store, going to the doctor and even going out with friends can become difficult without transportation.

There are several warning signs to look if you are concerned about a loved one’s safety behind the wheel. If you notice any of the following 17 warning signs, it is time to evaluate whether your loved one should continue driving.

  • signaling incorrectly
  • trouble making turns
  • changing lanes improperly
  • confusion at highway exits
  • difficulty parking
  • stopping inappropriately in traffic
  • confusing the brake and gas pedals
  • driving too fast or slow
  • hitting curbs
  • failing to notice stop signs or traffic lights
  • reacting slowly to traffic situations
  • failing to anticipate potential dangers
  • getting lost in familiar places
  • scrapes or dents on car, house, garage, etc.
  • traffic violations
  • near-misses
  • accident

There are several options for driving evaluation. One option is to have an evaluation through a driving evaluation center. Although there are companies that offer these services, many of these programs are offered through larger rehabilitation centers as well. Another option is to have a physician write a letter to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) expressing their concern about their patient’s driving ability. Once the DMV receives this letter, they will send out a letter to your loved one either revoking their license or requesting them to come in for a written test and/or an on the road driving test. Successful completion of the testing is necessary for the license to remain valid.

It can be hard for family members to address the topic of driving safety with their loved one. Involving the primary care physician in this process can be helpful because it takes the role away from the family. Another option is to consult with a Certified Care Manager. Certified Care Managers are typically well versed in the resources to evaluate driving and can facilitate not only the testing, but also put a plan in place to address the need for transportation once the person stops driving. Again, involving an independent third party takes the pressure off the family and takes some of the emotion out of the situation.

Addressing driving concerns with your loved one can be stressful and very difficult. It is an emotional topic with significant consequences. Having a plan to both evaluate your loved one’s driving and to accommodate their transportation needs if they stop driving will help make this difficult task somewhat easier.