How to tell when to get your aging parent to stop driving

An elderly individual may cling to the steering wheel of a car as if it is the last remnant of independence they have left – and oftentimes it actually is. No wonder, either; there are few more powerful symbols of freedom than driving down a lonely highway, top down, wind blowing in your face, radio blasting (preferably Golden Earring’s Radar Love). And while that remains exactly that – a symbol – for most o us, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the liberty of driving from one place to another at one’s ease is, like most privileges, taken for granted in youth and not easily yielded in old age. Unfortunately, many aging people are not so much Jason Statham-in-Crank as much as they are just plain cranks – Faster and Furiouser than the entire cast of that movie franchise, and at about their combined age. As a result, the caregiver – of the aging person’s child or grandchild – has the grievous task of asking their loved one to turn in their car keys. And, if given no choice, the caregiver has to play the bad guy and – like the rednecks at the end of Easy Rider – forcefully remove their driving privileges (well, not literally like in the film, of course, but you get the idea).

Conversely, you don’t want to deprive them of that last shred of independence without a justifiable cause. So, how can you tell when it’s time to consign them to public transportation? Or have them switch to a scooter? This checklist may help you determine when the moment comes:

Check Yes or No if your aging parent (65 y/o or older):




Has been given a warning because of poor driving by a police officer



Has a record that shows a pattern of close calls, violations, and/or minor collisions



Is nervous or anxious while driving



Finds it difficult to look over his or her shoulder or to turn his or her head to the side to look before changing lanes.



Get tired quickly when driving



Has trouble climbing stairs or walking more than one block in a day



Often becomes disoriented about where he or she is in relation to home when driving



Finds it difficult to make good decisions quickly when he/she is driving



Has difficulty with the glare of oncoming headlights, streetlights, or other shiny objects while

driving during the day or night



Has difficulty seeing people, traffic signs, lane lines, or other objects around or on the road



Often visually “misses” red lights or stop signs and as a consequence goes through them



backs into and over things such as curbs



Is frightened by the noise and speed of passing cars



Has a difficult time with hand/foot coordination



Has confused the break with the gas pedal



Has had a stroke, or has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), dementia, epilepsy, multiple

sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure or sleep disorders, or uncontrolled diabetes



Takes medicine for a prior stroke, or for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), dementia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure or sleep disorders, or uncontrolled diabetes that could affect his or her ability to drive



His or her driver’s license was not checked when he or she turned 70 years old



His or her driver’s license has not been checked every three years since he or she turned 70 (for example, 73, 76, 79) or annually since he or she turned 80.




Checking ‘Yes’ in multiple boxes is a sign that you should probably have a serious conversation with your loved one about whether they should continue or stop driving.

Related: When to take the car keys from your aging parent