Helping Aging Parents: Letting Them Know When to Stop Driving… and Preserve the Peace!


   ou’ve grown concerned about your mother’s driving. She is now one of the 30 million senior drivers (according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and you’ve become more watchful. First, there are these serious dents in her car that she can’t explain. When riding along, you’ve had to remind her that stop signs were coming up. While driving she has seemed unusually distracted.

Senior drivers have more fatalities per mile driven than any age group except teenagers. Younger drivers crash more, but the crashes involving mature drivers are more likely to be fatal.

It’s time to start the driving conversation with Mom, but you’re afraid of her reaction.

Why all the fierce emotion when talking about senior citizen driving?

Remember when you got your first driver’s license? That sense of pride and freedom stayed with you. If you’ve ever had surgery and a driving restriction while you were recovering, you know how your sense of independence was curtailed. So to understand aging parents, just take that emotion and intensify it by the number of years they have been driving.

For senior citizens the fear that they may have to stop driving for good is almost too much to bear. The culture that we live in is built on mobility. Public transportation is often scarce for former senior drivers. Families often live at a great distance. And friends are scattered and may have their own physical challenges to deal with. The loss of the ability to drive as a senior citizen can feel like being trapped, isolated and alone.

Your first step might be to help your Mom develop some new ways to compensate for any deficits. There are often many simple things that elderly drivers can do that will make a huge difference. You can go over some these tips for older drivers with Mom.

Is there a way to talk about senior citizens and driving… and still keep the peace?

It’s important to remember that this is not an either-or proposition. This not simply a question of whether to drive or not-to-drive. Being a senior driver is not a crime. There is a wide continuum of function and ability on the driving – quit driving spectrum.

I recommend that you approach the conversation in STAGES that are appropriate to where your parent is on the continuum. Each Stage will be dealt with in a separate page. Each page will contain:

  • A description of the major issues to be focused on
  • Major questions you should ask and things to look for
  • Links to other resources where you can get additional information


Stage 1: Rethinking the Driving Conversations
Ideally you begin this conversation before any issues have presented themselves. Establish your concern for the future and align yourself with being on the same team as your aging parent.

Stage 2: What to do at The First Signs of Change
What to look for as early signs of change in driving habits. Self-assessment tools offered. Providing support to preserve maximum freedom.

Stage 3: The Warning Bells
Learn the signals that there are more serious concerns. What professional medical assessments could be suggested. Referrals to Driving Rehabilitation Specialists and adaptive devices for the car are discussed.

Stage 5: Preserving Independence after Driving
Planning ahead to maintain freedom. Creative transportation alternatives to driving.

Stage 4: When It’s Time to Retire from Driving
Critical questions to know when it’s time to hang up the keys. Methods to ease the transition are discussed. Alternative approaches if driving cessation will not be voluntary.