The AgingCare Caregiver Forum is filled with experienced caregivers coming together to share valuable information and practical advice. We’ve compiled family caregivers’ best tips for recognizing when a senior is no longer able to drive safely.

When Is It Time to Take Away the Car Keys?

“If you have to ask this question, it is probably time. There are places that can conduct an assessment and make an ‘educated guess’ as to a person’s ability. But once the diagnosis has been made, I think it is the responsibility of the family to take the keys away. You open yourself to liability should something happen. Your loved one may hurt or kill themselves or, heaven forbid, someone else. Do you feel safe as a passenger when your loved one is driving? If you answered no, then take the keys away.” –Grandma1954

“If you have access to a professional who can assess the senior’s ability, then you should consider it. If your loved one has dementia, keep in mind that their condition could decline the day after, so the assessment would not be a guarantee of their ability as soon as it is concluded.” –Sunnygirl1

“I agree that when this question of driving starts occurring to you, it’s time to start the process of taking the keys away. And from my experience, it is a process. I don’t think anyone just hands over their keys willingly. It can be a battle, but it’s a fight worth fighting. You wouldn’t want your loved one to become disoriented while driving or misjudge a situation on the road to realize that it’s time for them to stop driving. Don’t wait for something to happen. Instead, try to prevent something from happening.” –Eyerishlass

“When I was facing this question with my mother-in-law about 15 years ago, a friend asked me, ‘Would you let your children ride in the car with her?’ Since I absolutely would not, that was my answer. I knew it was time to get rid of the car.” –akdaughter

Discussing unsafe driving isn't easy. AARP offers a program called ‘We Need to Talk’ for families who are concerned about their loved one’s ability to drive safely. They offer it in person or online if there’s no location close to you.” –IsntEasy

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“I advise adult children to go driving with their family members. Some warning signs of unsafe driving include:

  • Forgetting how to locate familiar places
  • Failing to observe traffic signals
  • Making slow or poor decisions
  • Problems with changing lanes or making turns
  • Hitting the curb while driving
  • Driving at an inappropriate speed (esp. under the speed limit)
  • Lane crossing
  • Failing to check blind spots
  • Failing to look both ways before entering traffic

In Ontario, seniors have to have a driving test, but, ultimately, physicians can take away a driving license.” –JenJilks

Senior health conditions can impact driving. Certain medications can contribute to unsafe driving, too. Driving while impaired by prescription meds in most states is the same as driving while impaired by alcohol and yields similar punishment and penalties. Both can kill people, too. I would treat them the same with regard to preventing a family member from doing it. I would take the keys, call their doctor, etc. If someone gets angry because you prevent them from driving while impaired, then you did the right thing. Hurt feelings on my part and/or my impaired family member is worth getting them off the road. You may eventually be able to adjust their medications so they are able to drive safely once more.” –Sunnygirl1