Giving Care: Senior & Disabled Caregiver Resource Blog

Get Parents to Give Up the Car Keys – Part One

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Failing to yield to cars or pedestrians who have the right-of-way
Driving too slow
Stopping for green lights and in the middle of an intersection
Drifting into the wrong lane
Experiencing near misses
Weak neck muscles making head turning in both directions difficult
Difficulty seeing and hearing
Drowsiness while driving

None of the warning signs listed above automatically means that your parent should immediately give up the car keys. Periodic evaluations of driving skills are necessary determine the need to alter driving habits or stop driving altogether.

Your parents probably realize when they should stop driving; but doing so would mean an end to life as they know it. Help them come to their own conclusion.


Negotiate impaired drivers off the road.

Driving is not necessarily an all-or-nothing activity, and yet any conversation with an older driver about lessening their need to drive is going to be a challenge. Much of the resistance is about status and flexibility — the freedom to go where they want when they want. A driver’s license symbolizes personal identity and self-reliance.

The goal is to help them plan for “retiring from driving” while not compromising or sacrificing independence. Driving issues will not be resolved quickly. Allow enough time between conversations for them to adjust to the idea of a car-free lifestyle. Try different approaches at different times. And don’t give up.


Resist the urge to command them to stop driving. Instead, negotiate them off the road by asking questions.

Introduce the topic of driving into everyday conversations. This gives parents time to think more about the subject. Conversation starters include:

Sometimes when I drive at night it’s hard to see. Does this happen to you, too?
I get jumpy at how everybody drives too fast. Do you think they should slow down?
Other drivers make me make me nervous. How do you feel about the way other people drive?
Did you hear about the terrible car-jacking incident in the shopping mall parking lot?


Appeal to their pocketbook.

Break down the cost of owning, maintaining, insuring, licensing, and parking a car. Even an on-demand taxi service can be less expensive than maintaining a car. Transportation costs can also be minimized by making better use of delivery services. Conversation starters may include:

Owning a car is expensive. And the price of gas! How do you manage to pay for it all?
I’m finding I use my car less and less. I’m even thinking about getting rid of it.
The cost of my auto insurance keeps going up. How much are you paying?
Have you heard about the online grocery shopping service? I use it all the time.


Take it up a notch.

If conversations seem to be going well, ask more specific questions. Be prepared to offer information about driving alternatives and resources. Questions might include:

I just read about AARP’s driver safety program. Do you know anything about it?
Have you asked the doctor about your medications and any possible side effects that might affect driving?
Do you think your neighbor could take you to the grocery store sometimes?
Do you know anyone who drives at night to the places you want to go?
Will you let me show you how easy and inexpensive it is to use an on-demand taxi service?

Read “Get Parents to Give Up the Car Keys – Part Two” Here


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