When is it time to stop driving??

This is such a sensitive issue but one that I’ve been thinking about a lot.  When is it time for someone to surrender their drivers licence?  I’ve done some reading on it and here are two articles in case your interested in reading them. 

Me myself, I know I won’t be driving forever.  I can’t really drive at night now and if it’s raining, snowing or foggy, I have a really hard time.  This was one deciding factor as to why I’m not bowling this year.  I can’t see right and I get paranoid thinking I’ve seen something move that I drive like a snail and I can actually feel it in my heart that I’m scared.  But that’s me and it’s my choice right?  Or isn’t it?

What about a parent who you know probably shouldn’t be driving anymore or at least not for much longer?  What do you do then?  Both of those articles gave check lists of monitoring someones driving but what if you don’t know what they drive like?  What if you are never in the car with them while they’re driving?

I know my mom has trouble with her eyes.  She can see far away but not really close up.  Not the “old age” syndrome but an eye disease.  She has macular degeneration.  She can see some things very clearly but not things like signing a receipt or reading books.  But she can golf and do things like that.  She failed her eye test for renewing her licence this past July so she had to send her ophthalmologist a letter and he had to sign it if it was “in his opinion,” okay for her to drive.  Now I’m thinking the hard part would be done for me but oh no, he signed it.  I asked her what the conditions were thinking that he’d specify that she could only drive during the day with no precipitation or anything like that.  She doesn’t drive at night or when it’s raining or snowing anyway so I thought it would ease her into giving it up all together in the next year. 

When does a person step in and take something away from a parent like this?  Both of those articles stated accidents as a guide but I’d sure hate for there to even be one in the first place before making a decision like this.  What if she really hurt someone or hurt herself? 

My daughter in law Nikki was in the car with her last Sat and she said she’d never do it again.  She drove very “jerky” and one thing that really has us all bothered is she would stop, on a main highway but in a 30 mph speed limit in our small town, to let people who were waiting to get out of the bank or store, and let them out.  Meanwhile she’s stopped dead on a highway.  My thought is she’s lucky to have not been rear ended before now.  I mean really, you can’t just stop to let people out on a highway.  It wasn’t like she slowed down in a yield, she just stopped.

So, how does a person do this gracefully?  How do you take something like this, freedom and independence away from a parent or a loved one?  My mother will not take this kindly.  She’s stubborn and she knows it all.  I know in the end the decision will be left to my brother and I but I hate to hurt her in any way.

Has anyone experienced this yet?  It’s very sad and it’s going to be hard and I’m not sure what’s the right thing to do.  I know all people are different and she’s got all her faculties.  The only problem is her eyes and maybe that’s why she stops.  Who knows?  But I know I don’t want her to hurt herself of anyone else before we think about this seriously.

Have any of you experienced this yet?  Going to have to face it soon?  Any suggestions would be very appreciated.

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20 Responses to When is it time to stop driving??

  1. holeycheese says:

    This is really a hard question.. The best is of course when older people know all by themselves when it’s time to step back and let somebody else drive. Some people are wise enough to do so.. others are not.
    When it comes to my parents (they are still “young” so it’s in the future) I think I would be honest. I think I could do it.. I’ve even done it in the past when my dad has been in the “wrong mood” for driving.

  2. SanityFound says:

    Joy, this is hands down a brilliant post, great topic and one I’ve often questioned as well – alas I have never come to an answer – it’s even harder for me seen as I don’t have that license thing in the first place. Incredible writing hun, wows!

  3. Tosha says:

    This has been very close to me for years now. Years ago this came up because of my grandmother. My grandmother and I are extremely close and she was there after I had Jewel (via c section) and couldnt drive. Jewel was released from the NICU after 10 days and I had no way to go get her so my grandmother offered to take me. I had not ridden with her in many years at that point and I swore after that i’d never ride with her again. It was so bad I made her pull over and let me drive even though I was recovering from surgery and not supposed to be driving. Once I made it home and she left I called my dad and told him that she had NO BUSINESS driving. That I didnt feel like it was my place to say something to her. She had already been in 2 fender benders and blamed the other person when it was CLEARLY her fault. She had developed road rage in her old(er) age. And she cussed and belittled other drivers when they were not doing anything but she was. My dad took the issue seriously and contacted his brother and his sister about it. I was not happy with the outcome they came to. My uncle did not want to help haul my grandmother around if her independence was to be taken from her and my aunt lives several states away and my dad works full time and lives in another town. Ultimately it would fall on me to be her driver and thats impossible with a family of my own to haul around all the time and not having a big enough vehicle. They came to the decision that my grandmother was not to drive at night or in the rain. She is to drive only during the day and ONLY in town. If she has to leave town she has to get one of us to take her. I don’t like it. I dont like her driving but this is the decision my uncle and father came to because they feel that its not as serious as i’m making it out to be.. Since this decision she has had another fender bender but this one might not be her fault as the guy that “hit her” his insurance company foot the bill and said it was his fault. My grandmother was not happy with me for going to my dad. She was not happy that we were trying to take her independence from her and she let everyone knwo she thought we were making a mountain out of a molehill and I dont think she has forgiven me for going to my dad but she follows the rules and only drives during the day and in town.. I told them one more accident and i’m goign to do what i have to do to get her drivers license taken from her.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Tosha did bring up one point that is another factor to consider….the location where you live. If you live where there is public transportation. If this is a parent or grandparent who lives in senior housing, or another area where there are organized trips to the grocery and other activities.

    However, if this older person lives in a rural location with no means to get anywhere and family lives far away this is a problem. I think for instance of the old timer farmers who have been haying for 50-60 years and in their older age they slip up once and lose a limb.

    I watched my parents go through this with my grandfather about 6 years ago. He was in his 90s, stubborn as hell, and very independent. He had been widowed for over 40 years. Unfortunately it took a minor fender bender, plus the expiration of his vehicles registration (he was getting to elderly to notice about such things) for my parents to jump on the opportunity to take the car. I think the saddest part is that my grandfather was so confused, he didn’t understand at that age why they were being so mean and punishing him. It was shortly after that they my parents decided to put him in a nursing home and he died a few months later.

    My own father stopped driving in his 60’s. He has a condition where he’ll get sudden dizzy spells and he was frightened it would happen while he was driving. He’s always been a timid driver and I think is using this as an excuse more than anything else. He takes medication for his condition. This drove my mother crazy because she was and still is very active and had places to go and things to do. They’ve always been a one car family. However when my mother had surgery a few years ago my father once again jumped behind the wheel. He’d kept his license current. In two weeks my mom will have knee replacement surgery and he’ll have to drive again. The only scary part is that now that he doesn’t do it very often he’s gotten even worse at driving.

    My parents don’t drive in snow, rain, after dark, on busy highways, and in places they don’t know. They drive no faster than 45.


  5. SKL says:

    I haven’t encountered this issue yet. It is definitely a sticky one. My style with my parents is to gently give my opinion and then talk about solutions and really try to help them with whatever alternative. My mom is stubborn, though, based on other discussions I’ve had with her. And I’m sure she doesn’t always like me thinking I know better about her personal life. But I can deal with being a little unpopular.

    One thing that usually works with people is to get more than one person to tell her at different times. People never believe what they hear from just one person, but as soon as a second person says it, they give it some consideration.

  6. nikki says:

    My mom just went through this with my grandma. She has dementia which made the decision pretty easy. My grandma went through the whole,”you worry too much, you’re taking all my privileges away, you’re treating me like a child.” In the beginning my Mom talked to her doctor first because she knew if it came from a doctor she would be more apt to listen. She didn’t like it but she had no choice. There was no real reason for her to drive. She lives in a senior home that has a bus that takes them everywhere they need to go plus my family helps out. In Fana’s case, she really scared me and I had the kids in the car. When she stopped to let that car out of the bank I asked her, “are you going to the bank?” She said,”no, I’m just letting them out” I wanted to say, you can’t do that, you’ll cause an accident. But for those who know her, you can’t just say that to her. I could almost handle the jerkiness of her driving if that was the worst. I don’t mind going the speed limit or even 5 below, I can handle that. What worried me was the slowing down to 40-45 in a 55mph speed limit just because a passing country road was coming up. And of course the direct stop in town on a 45mph high way. Buffalo is a very busy town on the weekends and that is just plain dangerous. Now to go about all this with her, I do not look forward to it. To start out I would contact her doctor if you know who she sees’, talk to him privately and discuss your concerns and have the doctor tell her, that way it is not coming from you. I know he signed the paper, does she have that test again anytime soon? She will most likely fail again, that’s when you talk to him/her. If her doctor had any family input about it and knew of our concerns I betcha he would not have signed that. Now if she does not have to take that test again any time soon then I’m not really sure how to handle it because we all know Fana and she will not be happy at all. I know when it’s my time to give it up I will be more than willing because I’m not that big on driving.

  7. nikki says:

    Oh and I want to add this, we do have the River Rider which takes seniors and anyone else who can’t drive anywhere they want around town.

  8. mssc54 says:

    Wow this is a tough one!

    I mean how do you convince someone who is possibly a widower or widow that they have to surrender the last bit of freedom they have?

    There is a story in the bible about King David. It’s In 2 Samuel 12. David has already committed adultery and murdered his lover’s husband. Then the Lord sent Nathan to David with a story about about two people. One is poor and has only a few sheep. The other is rich and has many sheep. The rich person stole from the poor person. Nathan asks David what he thinks about that. David is indignant and says if he knew who that rich person was that stole from the poor person he would straighten him out!

    Nathan tells David that it is in fact he that had stolen form the poor person.

    With this story David realizes his sins and changes his life.

    What I am saying is perhaps if we can find a way to enguage our elderly relatives in stories of danger on the highways, loss of “freedom”, etc. and then ask them what they think could be done to help these people… maybe some of them would answer the question for themself.

  9. joanharvest says:

    When my mom was alive we had to take her license away from her. She was beginning to forget where she was. I had to take her to the grocery store twice a week. I think she was in her late 70’s. My father was still driving at 85 but he was sharp as a tack. I really think it is an individual thing.

    My kids will probably let me drive until the last possible moment because I do all their errands and grocery shopping.

  10. Joy says:

    That is a good idea mssc54. To try and make her see if from a different point of view.

    So everyone knows, my kids call my mom Fana. The thing is where she drives NOW, I’m not “that” worried but I can see there will be a day when this will be an issue. She pretty much lives in a “big small” town if that makes sense. It’s a very touristy town in our land of 10,000 lakes and there is a lot of traffic on the weekends. She pretty much just putters around but there are times she comes to my house, 20 miles or goes to spend the night with her girlfriend where she has to take the freeway. That, I don’t even like thinking about. I really thought her eye doctor would have give her some kind of restrictions.

    Jason and Nikki live 5 minutes from her and my husband and youngest son work 2 minutes from her so getting her around is not an issue. Taking her freedom and independence is what scares me. It will feel horrible to “take” that from her.

    She also has all her thinking abilities and is very physically active and that makes this all the harder. I guess I’ll just have to keep my eye on things.

  11. mssc54 says:

    Joy, just remember as our parents age the “parent, child” roles tend to reverse.

    Sure you may feel horrible if you “take” her independence from her. Imagine how you may feel if you tragically end up saying “if only I had…”

    I think that “honoring thy father and mother” is doing what’s best for them when they can’t seem to do it for themselves.

    I will say though that all of this is easy for me to write… my mom lives more than 600 miles away.

  12. Joy says:

    Thanks mssc54. Did you get the scrapbook pictures?

  13. Jennifer says:

    After reading your post this morning Joy I then read THIS article in my morning newspaper! How sad! I can imagine how awful this neighbor feels having known this woman for so long…..

    I’ll admit though that my first thought was after reading this post…. “I wonder how long he’s been driving?”


  14. Joy says:

    Oh wow Jen, how sad is that? See stuff like that happens and we would all feel terrible if it happened to us. My mom would never forgive herself and then neither would we. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  15. Amber says:

    I have had several instances in my life of this. My mother is a horrible driver these days and I have told her that she either shapes up or I will remove her keys. Period. It is not worth the safety of the public to continue this.

    A family close to me is dealing with this with their father. He has Parkinsons and should not be driving. They do not want to remove his keys from him, and he does not want to give up his independence. Personally, I think its that the kids don’t want to take the steps necessary to do what it would take. Meaning drive him all over. He is a danger to himself and others on the road. It is completely inappropriate. I think that people should have to take a test after the age of 65, and then refresher courses every few years.

    In my own case I have been hounded to death regarding driving. I have never so much had a ticket or an accident but as you know they removed my license because I had seizures and they wanted to make sure I was controlled. Well, when they gave me my license back, I had to take a behind the wheel test, (at a cost to me) and a written test (at a cost to me) a vision test, and fill out all kinds of fun paperwork. I could understand it if I had had any kind of infraction against my name, but I had not. Its ridiculous. Then charging me on top of all that… well I think that was just wrong wrong wrong. I was sick for pete’s sake. I am not a criminal, nor am I a bad person!

  16. Joy says:

    I’m so glad your back Amber.

  17. SanityFound says:

    Yers she had to put up with sweet innocent me all alones

  18. Joy says:

    You got that right Sanity 😉

  19. SKL says:

    My sister was diagnosed with epilepsy, but she only had seizures at night, luckily never while driving. After the diagnosis, she quit driving at night and worked to get her seizures under control (she was able to do it with lifestyle changes, thankfully). But luckily, she never had a restriction on her license. That would be pretty difficult for a single working person living outside of the city.

  20. Jane says:

    Being we live where we do, it’s not as bad as driving in cities. It’s still a big deal sometimes. My grandma used to get lost and that scared us all. She would just take off and nobody knew where she was. We just broke it to her softly one day and she was pretty okay with it. We all live so close together and usually go for the big shopping trips together anyway so it wasn’t a huge issue. I can see for some though this would be very hard.

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