8 Ways to Stop an Elderly Person From Driving When All Else Fails

stop an elderly person from driving

What to do if your parent or spouse refuses to stop driving

Unsafe senior driving is a serious issue. When you see warning signs that your parent or spouse is no longer safe behind the wheel, it’s time to get them to stop driving.

But some older adults stubbornly refuse to give up the keys, no matter what. You might have already done everything you can think of, like:

  • Holding repeated conversations to ask them to stop
  • Showing proof that they’re no longer safe drivers
  • Calling a family meeting so it’s not just coming from you
  • Reassuring them that they’ll still be able to go out

Even after all that, they still refuse to give up their keys. Don’t despair, when everything else has failed, there are 8 more things you can do to stop an elderly person from driving.

 

Don’t feel guilty

These methods might make you feel like you’re betraying them or being the “bad guy.” But what you’re really doing is using last resort methods to protect their safety and the safety of other drivers and nearby pedestrians.

 

8 ways to stop an elderly person from driving

1. Anonymously report them to the DMV
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) allows people to report unsafe drivers, often anonymously. You don’t have to be a doctor, anyone can file a report.

The benefit is that your older adult won’t blame you for taking their license away. Instead, they’ll be angry with the DMV.

Each state’s DMV has different procedures. Typically when someone is reported as an unsafe driver, they’re called in for a driver’s license retest regardless of when their license expires. Contact your local DMV to find out what is needed in your state to request a retest.

If you don’t feel comfortable filing a DMV report, speak confidentially with their doctor and share your concerns. Ask the doctor to write a letter that you can take to the DMV.

2. Use Alzheimer’s or dementia forgetfulness to your advantage
Alzheimer’s or dementia can cause seniors to become irrational and stubborn about driving.

In these situations, an effective strategy is to remove the car and any reminders of driving. At the same time, creatively distract them from the topic until they forget about driving altogether.

This approach spares them from angry confrontations or getting depressed about not being allowed to drive.

3. Have a relative or close friend “borrow” the car
If your older adult’s car isn’t in the garage, they won’t be able to drive it. To keep them from getting suspicious, you could arrange for a relative or close friend to borrow the car.

For example, the relative could pretend that their own car is in the shop for major repairs. If it’s a young relative, they could say they need a car for school or a job. When the car is out of sight or unavailable for a good reason, your older adult may be more willing to give up driving.

You don’t have to actually give the car away, that’s just a cover story to get the car out of their sight. After that, it’s your decision to keep, sell, or give away the car.

4. Hide or “lose” the car keys
Another way to keep your older adult from driving is to hide the car keys or pretend they’re lost. It’s best to do this while they’re asleep so they won’t suspect that you’ve taken them.

If they ask you where the keys are, pretend that you have no idea. You could even help them look and after searching the house, declare the keys hopelessly lost. Say that you’ll get a new set, but it could take a while.

5. Take the car for repairs
Pretending that the car is having a problem is another effective method. Tell your older adult that the car is at the auto shop for repairs. This gets the car away from the house – similar to having a relative borrow it.

Your senior may ask why the car has been in the shop for so long. Be prepared to say something like:

  • A repair part hasn’t arrived yet
  • The repairs cost more than the car is worth
  • The mechanic says the car can’t be fixed

6. Disable the car
A good way to prevent someone from driving is to disable their car. Do something simple like unplugging the battery or locking the steering wheel with a “Club.”

Even if they managed to get the keys, they still wouldn’t be able to drive a disabled car.

7. Sell the car
Selling their car is another way of making sure your older adult can no longer drive. Make up a story for why this is necessary. For example, you might say that a close relative needs money and this is the only way to help.

You don’t have to actually sell the car if you don’t want to, but this is another way to get it out of sight for a seemingly legitimate reason.

8. Hide your own car and car keys
If your car is still available, your older adult might try to take your keys and drive your car. If that’s happening, make sure to hide your own keys and park your car out of their sight.

Whenever you need to go out, you can say that a friend is giving you a ride or that you’re taking public transportation.

 

Bottom line

If your older adult refuses to stop driving, you might be forced to use these methods. They might seem extreme, but they’re effective.

Many seniors give up the fight when their driver’s license is revoked. Others will give up the fight after you use some of these creative ways to get rid of or disable their car.

It may take some time, so be prepared to stick with your story. The most important thing is that your older adult will be safely off the roads.

 

You might also like:
7 Warning Signs: How to Know When Your Parents Should Stop Driving
4 Tips to Get an Elderly Person to Stop Driving
3 Ways to Deal with Family in Denial About Seniors Needing Help

 

By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Cheap Car Insurance

 

A version of this article was originally published on Sixty and Me

 

This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products for the sole purpose of making a commission. Product recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.

8 Comments

  • Reply January 14, 2021

    Carolyn K

    I was disturbed by many of the suggestions in this article. They covered the range from deceit and gaslighting to theft. With the exception of those who are legally not competent to make their own decisions, it is the elder’s decision when or if to stop driving. The recommendations here violate the senior’s right to make that decision. This encourages caregivers to step way over healthy boundaries.

    #3: To have someone “borrow” the car and not bring it back is vehicle theft. After that, it is NOT your decision to keep, sell or give it away. You couldn’t sell it anyway without the owner’s (often notarized) signature on the title.
    #4: To “lose” the car keys and pretend you don’t know what happened to them is dishonest and gaslighting. At some level they may know what you have done, and it will undermine their trust in you (and rightfully so).
    #5: Like #3 and #4, with this suggestion, you would also be lying about the situation and gaslighting the senior.
    #6: If you disable the car, you are damaging someone else’s property.
    #7: Again, the car is not yours to sell. If you do it without their knowledge, then you are selling stolen property.

    I have a 90-year-old father who should have stopped driving a while ago. I came to this website looking for help.

    In our state, you cannot just call the DMV and report an unsafe driver. (If that were the case, they’d get a complaint anytime someone got ticked off by another’s driving.) If I were to do any of the other suggestions, my dad would call the dealer to get new keys or the cops to file a report of his stolen car.

    My only recourse is to respect his right to make his own decision on this while talking with him about how he’ll know when to stop driving. I also offer and arrange alternative transportation as much as is humanly possible. Above all, I respect him and know what’s my problem to solve and what isn’t.

    • Reply January 16, 2021

      DailyCaring

      Unfortunately, deceit may be necessary if someone is clearly no longer able to safely drive a car, but uses poor judgement and insists on continuing to drive. If there isn’t already a dementia diagnosis, that decision in itself could indicate that they may be experiencing some cognitive impairment that should be evaluated by a doctor.

      In the vast majority of cases, the person taking these steps is only doing so in order to protect the person who is exhibiting poor judgement and to protect innocent drivers and pedestrians. The intention isn’t to lie maliciously, steal their car, or profit from selling the car.

      Not preventing someone who is clearly unable to drive safely from continuing to drive is similar to allowing someone who is clearly impaired by drugs or alcohol to drive themselves. Those who have knowledge of the situation have a moral obligation to protect that person and other people from potential injury or death.

      Every state’s DMV has different rules around reporting an unsafe driver. Here’s a helpful website with an overview of each state’s policies – https://www.dementiacarecentral.com/caregiverinfo/driving-problems/

      In some states, doctors are required to report to the DMV any patients who are cognitively or medically unsafe to drive.

    • Reply February 14, 2021

      Marlene T Wallace

      Carolyn, Your Dad clearly does not have the level of dementia where he needs to stop driving. If he is able to call the car dealership to get keys, he is still operating at a good level. He maybe physically not able to drive which is a difficult issue also. Be grateful. The suggestions in this article deal with a really hard issue that can be deadly. Because it is really hard to get those with dementia to stop driving, care givers will do almost anything to get loved ones to not drive.

  • Reply November 16, 2019

    Glenn e converse

    he has almost hit other vehicles

    • Reply November 22, 2019

      DailyCaring

      Yikes, that sounds scary. Hopefully the tips above will help you get him to stop driving before he hurts himself or others.

  • Reply July 30, 2019

    Lou Traylor

    Another method is to take their keys and have them filed down enough so they will no longer work in the ignition.

    • Reply July 30, 2019

      DailyCaring

      Excellent tip!! Very creative! Thanks for sharing.

      • Reply January 19, 2021

        SBS

        Thank you, Carolyn K – that’s exactly what I thought! Our parents deserve our respect and to maintain their own dignity and we will not deceive or trick them into giving up the keys when that time comes. I would much rather my parents be angry at me for telling them the truth or asking the DMV to intervene…than dishonor them and our relationship through deceit.

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