How to Help an Elderly Person to Drive Less

Just as getting your driver's license is often viewed as a ticket to freedom or independence, losing the ability to drive can be a real loss of independence. It's best to work with the person to preserve as much independence as possible. If somebody's driving is too unsafe, it may fall to a family member or friend to help get them out of the car entirely.


  1. 1
    Talk to the person whose driving concerns you. Be as gentle and understanding as you can, but also be clear and firm. Allow plenty of time to have the conversation. This process will be easiest if the person agrees voluntarily to let you help, and to reduce the amount of driving or, if necessary, to give up driving. Present your reasons for concern as a question of ability or condition rather than of age [1]. Be specific regarding what concerns you. Explain that you are concerned because you care about their safety and the safety of others.
  2. 2
    Reduce the need for the person to drive. The transition from driving to not driving as much (or at all) will be easier the more of the person's lifestyle and independence you can help to preserve.

    • Many cities now have delivery available for groceries or take-out.
    • Stop by regularly with supplies, companionship and whatever else you can offer.
    • If you take over shopping for somebody, make sure to get their input and bring them what they want. You will only make a mess if you bring too much or too little, or choose all the wrong things.
    • Find out what other outings and activities are a regular part of their routine and work towards accommodating them.
    • Be aware that even simple trips to the store may provide the person with an opportunity to get out and be social. Keep in mind that your objective is to keep them as safe as possible, not to isolate them.
  3. 3
    Find or create alternatives to driving. Transportation is required to get groceries, to visit the doctor, to attend social events, and to carry on the adult lives to which we all become accustomed.

    • Find out whether public transportation is available to the person and help them learn to use it. Many public transportation options offer discounts to senior citizens. Keep in mind though, that walking to a bus stop may be difficult now, too.
    • Help with cab fare if you don't live close by or can't be there each day.
    • Arrange transportation with neighbors who live nearby, offering to help pay for time and fuel. If the older person's finances are tight, he or she can offer neighbors other assistance, such as babysitting for children.
    • Find out if the town or city offers senior shuttles or other transportation assistance.
    • If you live close enough, help with transportation yourself.
    • Take advantage of transportation time to spend more time with the person. He or she may feel isolated or alone, especially with less driving.
  4. 4
    Take steps to make sure that whatever driving a person is still doing is as safe as possible. Driving need not be an all or nothing proposition. A person may still be able to drive safely with certain extra precautions. [2]

    • Vision problems are made worse in low light.
      Avoid driving at night, dawn, or dusk. Low light makes it even harder for someone with reduced vision to see well and react. Remember to time the trip so that both the trip out and the trip back will have plenty of daylight.
    • Avoid driving in bad weather. Besides reducing visibility, wet or icy roads are slippery and require an extra measure of caution and judgment.
    • Reduce the number, duration, and frequency of trips.
    • Avoid driving to places that are unfamiliar. Focusing on navigation or unfamiliar surroundings may mean not focusing as much on driving, itself.
    • Avoid driving alone.
    • Avoid freeways, rush hour, and other busy or difficult driving situations.
    • Avoid difficult intersections and left turns. It is safer to take a longer route.
    • Allow plenty of time for trips. A wrong turn is less likely to cause panic if there is plenty of time to correct.
    • Remove distractions while driving.
    • Arrange alternatives for longer trips, night trips, and trips to unfamiliar places.
    • Look for classes for senior drivers. Many insurance companies offer incentives to senior drivers who take a class in defensive driving or senior driving. The AARP also offers a program to help mature drivers stay safe. [3]
    • Make adaptations. Make sure that the eyeglasses prescription is up to date, for example.
    • Check tire inflation and fluids regularly.
      Check that the vehicle is in good repair. Help the person to check tire inflation and fluids regularly and stay on top of oil changes and other regular maintenance.
    • Keep aware of the person's condition and abilities. You may have to revisit the question or make additional changes later on.
  5. 5
    Recognize the hazards of age-related effects while driving, and ask the person to do the same. Older drivers may have difficulty with vision or hearing, increased reaction time, loss of strength or flexibility or loss of focus and concentration. Taken together, these factors can lead to injury and even fatal accidents. If the person can help to decide when to stop driving, it may be less of a shock and it will certainly be less of an argument. [4]
  6. 6
    Evaluate the person's driving objectively. If you think that driving at all has become unsafe, ride along with the person and look for specific signs that his or her driving might no longer be safe. Also watch how they behave off the road. Tell the person what you have seen and why you are concerned, and ask that they stop driving or change their habits.[5][6]:

    • Read about medications or ask a doctor or pharmacist.
      Conditions or medications that may reduce reaction times, alter judgment, or induce drowsiness.
    • Driving at inappropriate speeds, either too fast or too slow. Ask specifically whether this practice creates a hazard, since driving at a moderate pace where it is appropriate to do so can be much safer than driving too fast.
    • Discomfort or nervousness about driving from the driver, concerns from passengers, or honking or anger from other drivers.
    • An increase in traffic citations or warnings.
    • Dents or scrapes on the vehicle or on curbs, garage doors, and other surroundings.
    • Accidents or "close calls".
    • Difficulty staying focused on the act of driving.
    • Difficulty staying within the lane; hitting curbs or crossing lane markers.
    • Failure to notice or inappropriate reactions to road signs, traffic signals, pedestrians, breaks in traffic, or other cues while driving.
    • Difficulty seeing to the sides or behind the vehicle or reliance on passengers to check whether a turn or other action will be safe.
    • Difficulty turning to look behind when backing up or changing lanes.
    • Getting lost, especially in areas that should be familiar.
  7. 7
    Get the opinion of a doctor, optometrist, or other medical professional, and get it in writing. For some people, a letter from somebody who is an authority (and who is neutral or not a family member) may convince them not to drive. If the written opinion isn't enough to be convincing, it can give you grounds for taking stronger measures should you need to.
  8. 8
    Ask for an evaluation from somebody who is an expert on driving, and agree in advance to follow their recommendation. Ask the person to retest with the agency that issues driver's licenses or contact driving schools and ask about getting an evaluation. Again, get the result in writing.
  9. 9
    Approach the department of motor vehicles, or whatever agency issues driver's licenses. It may be illegal for the person to continue driving. Even if the official response is only a letter, it may help convince them to stop.
  10. 10
    Force the issue. If other approaches have failed and driving is definitely no longer safe, it may be necessary to take away the keys or disable or take away the vehicle. Exhaust all other options first, and think ahead to what the person might do in this case.

    • Make sure your method is effective. Many people can reconnect a battery, dig out spare keys, or call roadside assistance. On the other hand, "losing" the keys may be an effective short term measure to keep someone from driving without it being "your fault".
    • If you choose to take the car or the car keys, have grounds for doing so first. Be prepared to justify your actions if they call the police.


  • If this person is a friend or family member, make it very clear that you want them to stop or cut down on driving because you care about them.
  • Don't blame the person for the lapse in their skills. They did not choose to grow older or to have their health fail.
  • If a person's driver's license is taken away, help them through the process of securing other legal identification.
  • Be sensitive and understanding, but be firm if you have to. Making someone angry for a little while is better than letting them get into an accident that could injure or kill somebody.
  • Think in terms of minimizing the harm, including to the lifestyle and well-being of the person you wish to help. Try the most positive and least drastic approaches first. A little independence can go a long way.
  • One size does not fit all. Make sure your approach is appropriate to the specific individual and situation you are dealing with.
  • If you are someone who may need to stop or reduce your driving soon, be honest with yourself and others about your driving ability. Ask the opinions of others whom you trust if you are unsure of your skills. Also, ask for help making this transition and let those who care for you know how they can help you most. It can be very difficult to stop relying on your own driving, especially if public transportation is not available in your area, but it is better than creating a hazard.
    • consider buying them a bus pass as a gift.
  • If public transit is being considered as an alternative to driving, offer to accompany the person on some trips as a sort of "dry run" beforehand to help them get accustomed to the routes and stops they will use most frequently. This may help mitigate any aversions they may have about using mass transit.

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