Giving Up The Car Keys

As our loved ones get older we can be faced with a number of potentially difficult discussions. One of those discussions is about giving up the car keys. Without careful planning, this discussion can devolve into anger and hurt feelings.

Here are some thoughts:

The first question to ask yourself is, why do I think my loved one shouldn’t drive? The answer to this question can be a guide to how you frame the discussion. For example, if your loved one has had a few minor accidents or you see scrapes on their vehicle, that can be an indication that you should have the discussion.

You could also be worried that their physical or mental condition is such that, in case of car trouble, or an accident, they may not be able to get help by operating a cell phone or walking.

An important point to note is use the words “I” and “we” instead of “you”, such as, “I noticed some paint scrapes on your car. I’m concerned that you are having trouble seeing other vehicles. Should we get your vision checked?” An evaluation by a third party can lead to a positive discussion and the decision to stop driving can be lead with someone outside the family rendering a decision.

If you believe that your loved on has a medical condition that would make it dangerous to have them behind the wheel, an opinion from their physician can be helpful. In some states, in an extreme situation, a physician can order that a driver’s license can be suspended.

It’s also important to determine the impact on your loved one’s social activities. If they are still living in their home and can get rides from family members or friends, the transition can be a bit easier. Public transportation and ride-sharing services might also be an option. These options may not be available if there are no family members in the vicinity or if they live in a rural area.

If your loved one living in an assisted living facility, there are usually transportation options available and scheduled trips to shopping, restaurants, and other activities.

Should you sense that this discussion will be particularly difficult, you may wish to suggest a Senior Driving School, which can cause two things to happen: they pass the competency test/get a discount of their auto insurance, or they are determined by the instructor as not being able to drive safely.

Some resources are: the AAA Mature Operator courses and your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

Usually, one needs to renew their driver’s license every four or five years. In some states, that changes to every three years after one reaches 70 years of age. Usually, all that is required is paying a fee, filling out a form, and taking a vision test. If your loved one doesn’t pass the vision test, that’s a good time to have the discussion. It’s also a good comment to make proactively, when you have your advance discussion: “What should I do if you don’t pass the vision test when you go to renew your driver’s license?”

If possible, it’s best to have the discussion proactively and ask questions like, “How will I know that you shouldn’t be driving? What sorts of things should I look for? What plan should we put in place so that you can still get around without driving?

Giving up the car keys is never easy. With some advance planning, things will go a bit easier.


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