Critter Corner: Take my Guns and my Home, but NOT MY CAR KEYS

Dear Bebe,

When my father reached his 75th birthday, he had made quite a few concessions to age. He willingly gave up his guns and hunting, a passion he had since his childhood. He no longer mowed his own yard or cleaned his own gutters. In fact, five years ago, he sold his home to come live with me and my wife. But there is one thing Dad won’t give up, at least not without a struggle—his car keys!

Unfortunately, after driving with him recently and running over a few curbs, I could tell he is not safe on the road. How can I convince him to give up his keys?

Thanks for your help!

Don Triveny-Moore

Dear Don,

For most people, driving is a symbol of independence and control. This is why many older adults get offended, defensive, or angry when asked to stop driving. When it comes to your father, there are some actions you can take if you truly feel that he is unsafe on the road. First, it would be wise to look at state laws when it comes to senior driving, as they may indicate that he needs a vision test, medical tests, a road test and more to maintain his license.

State Laws Regarding Senior Drivers- Take these into account

33 States and the District of Columbia currently have special provisions for mature drivers. These include: accelerated renewal frequency; restriction of online or mailed renewals; vision test; road test; or reduced or waived renewal fees.

In Virginia, drivers who are 80 years of age or older at the time their current driver license expires are generally required to renew their license in person at a local DMV office. In addition to taking a vision test every time you renew in person, you may in certain situations be asked to take a written knowledge test as well.

Sometimes, a physical or mental condition can impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The most common of these conditions is poor vision, but others which may be age-related include cognitive skills like memory, coordination and flexibility. In some circumstances, older drivers may have a restriction placed on their driver license. The types of restrictions are based on the results of your vision test, driving test, and the driving examiner’s assessment. A restricted driver license may be issued to ensure that you are driving within your abilities.

Maryland does not place any restriction on age, after which drivers are expected to renew license at more frequent intervals. However, drivers who are 70 years of age or older at the time of applying for a license may be denied a license if they have not previously had a Maryland license, or if they cannot prove their medical competence with a report from their physician. Drivers can generally renew their license by mail or in person at a local DMV office. In addition to taking a vision test, you may in certain situations be asked to take a written knowledge test as well.

In DC, if you are 70 years or older you must renew your driver license in person at a DC DMV Service Center, bring the required documentation to the Service Center, have your physician complete the certification on the driver license application, and pass the vision test. Read more on your state’s DMV website.

Having the conversation with your father

If your father is still able to drive, according to the laws in the state where you live, but you fear it isn’t safe, it would be a good time to have a conversation with him. The conversation will be tough and you’ll probably feel like the bad guy at first, but rest assured that you’re doing the right thing. Convincing a senior who should no longer be on the road to stop driving is for their own safety as well as everyone else’s safety. These are some tips for having a successful conversation with your father about cessation of driving:

· Discuss reasons: The first thing to do is make a list of reasons why your father is no longer a safe driver. The signs of unsafe driving that you saw when you were driving with him can become part of the conversation and will help you explain why you’re concerned about his safety.

· Talk about other transportation options: A list of realistic transportation options will assure your father that he’ll still be able to do his normal activities.

Here are some ideas:

  • Arrange a ride schedule with family and friends
  • Use on-demand ride services such as Uber and Lyft
  • Take taxis
  • Take public transportation
  • Get rides from volunteer drivers from senior centers or religious and community service organizations
  • Take advantage of free or low-cost ride programs for seniors

· Approach the Subject Respectfully: When you have the conversation about giving up the keys, the most important thing is to be respectful and acknowledge that this is difficult for your father. Emphasize that you’re not accusing him of being a bad driver. Instead, focus on his health conditions or other aging-related issues that make his driving unsafe.

· Give him time to accept the changes: Because it’s such a big adjustment, it may take more than one conversation before your father is ready to give up the car keys.

Hope this is helpful and that everything goes smoothly!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.