Dear Mary
Driving Me Crazy

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Dear Mary,

I am so worried for my Dad. He is 83 and still driving. This is driving me crazy. He tells me that he is as good a driver as ever. I know that his eye sight and reaction times are not great and will only get worse over time. How can I persuade him to give up driving? It would be safer for him and everyone in his town.

Mike

Hi Mike:

JimAging parents and their continued driving is a very tricky subject. We all fight for our independence and driving is one of those dearly loved ways of proving our independence to ourselves and to the world. How would you feel if you thought you were a good driver and suddenly people were challenging your driving skills? You would fight hard to prove them wrong and fight hard to keep your independence. Your Dad will act and react as we all would. So when looking at this subject, keep not just the safety issue in mind, but also the importance of maintaining his independence and his dignity. Here are a couple of ideas to think about.

Take a drive with your Dad and see how his driving really is. Did he miss any stop signs or was his reaction time too slow? Is he able to remember where he is going and how to get home again? Is he able to see and hear everything traffic related around him?

Based on what you learn, you have several options:

  1. Encourage your Dad to take a refresher course to keep his skills sharp. Have a professional do this. If the driving professional suggests that he give up his driver’s license, then you are not seen as the “bad guy”. It will be the opinion of a third party giving out the bad news.
  2. Visit his doctor and eye doctor to see what they say about this topic.
  3. Do the math with your Dad. Show him how expensive it is to maintain a car. Include the maintenance, insurance, gasoline and all parking charges.
  4. Talk about how horrible it would be if he were injured or killed. Talk about how you would have guilt for not doing more to encourage him to stop driving. Talk about his guilt if he hurt or killed someone else.
  5. Talk about the benefits of being driven. Hiring a taxi service is a great way to maintain independence and yet be safe. I believe that there are more advantages for older adults to be driven than for them to be driving themselves. Some reasons include: being dropped off at the front door of their home and at stores, appointments, not worrying about slipping and falling (especially in bad weather) in parking lots and not carrying packages too far.
  6. Encourage your Dad to be part of the decision process to stop driving, instead of being told by the authorities that he must stop driving.

I remember when my mother-in-law was still driving. She accidentally put her car that was in the basement of her condo in reverse when she thought it was in drive. She smashed the whole back half of the car and did some damage to her parking spot too. She could have easily hurt or killed herself and others. This really scared her and although she said that she did nothing wrong (it was the car’s fault) she did listen to the benefits of stopping to drive.

After some further conversations, we set up a taxi service for her. She did not have to carry money for the driver. She only had to give him a voucher for her ride and then the monthly taxi invoices came to us. She quite liked being driven and most of the taxi drivers helped carry her groceries to her condo. She felt like a princess and was quite pleased to keep her independence and we all had less stress knowing that she was not driving anymore. Many of the ladies in her condo thought that she was very lucky to have her own taxi service and it seemed like quite a luxury to them all.

Perhaps start by working with your Dad on a couple of experiments to see how he might like taking a taxi. Go with him on the first trip and enjoy the ride together. Next let him take the taxi himself and call him later to hear how things went.

Work carefully and gently with how you proceed to move this discussion along. Think about your Dad’s independence, dignity and safety. If you keep all three in mind, you will have greater success in getting him to stop driving then if you just nag him about what a poor driver he is and what a risk he is to himself and others.

Mary

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