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How to Take the Keys Away From an Elderly Driver: A Step-by-Step Guide

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
18 minute readLast updated February 23, 2024

Discussing driving abilities with your aging loved one can be a sensitive matter, especially as driving is often closely linked to a person’s sense of independence. However, it’s necessary to address driving habits when safety becomes a concern. Even though older drivers generally follow safe driving practices, age-related changes in vision, physical condition, and cognitive abilities can lead to higher accident risks, especially after age 70. While some seniors willingly stop driving when they feel it’s unsafe, others might downplay the risks. The steps below can help you collect the right information and have a meaningful conversation about driving with your elderly loved one.

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1. Look for signs of unsafe driving

There’s no specific age to stop driving, but accidents resulting in injury or death do increase with age.[01] If you question your loved one’s ability to drive safely, consider riding with them occasionally and keeping notes of your observations. Be on the lookout for the following warning signs:
  • Increased accidents or tickets
  • Canceled car insurance policy or increased premiums
  • Signs of scrapes and minor collisions on their vehicle
  • An inability to turn their head to see behind the car and check blind spots
  • Trouble seeing at night
  • Driving the wrong way
  • Speeding on residential streets or driving too slowly on highways
  • Stopping at all intersections, regardless of signs and signals
  • Drifting across lanes
  • Forgetting to wear their seatbelt, turn on headlights, or use turn signals
  • Forgetting where they’re going or getting lost
  • Using the brakes instead of the gas pedal, and vice versa
  • Driving anxiety
  • Slowed response time
  • Trouble making decisions in the moment

2. Present solutions instead of demands

Having a successful conversation can be particularly challenging when figuring out how to take the keys away from an elderly driver. Bluntly telling a loved one they need to stop driving could start an argument — it sounds like a threat to their independence.
The best way to approach this conversation is by presenting a variety of choices and solutions to help extend their independence rather than decrease it. For example, getting food delivered to their door is a great way to help seniors stay safe in the comfort of their own home and enjoy their favorite restaurants without driving.

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3. Research transportation alternatives

Before speaking with your loved one, research the transportation alternatives available in their area to alleviate the need for driving. You can offer to help them get familiar with the local bus, subway, or train system, set up an account with a ride-hailing or taxi service, hire a home care companion to drive them around, or reach out to a volunteer service that offers free rides for seniors.
When you present these options to your loved one, try to shift their mindset with examples. For instance, many people enjoy living in areas where they don’t need to drive a car. Additionally, cutting out car payments, maintenance costs, and insurance premiums can usually offset the fees for taxis, ride shares, or bus fares.

4. Use a transition team

Before you talk with your loved one, speak with friends, other family members, or professionals with experience in this area. Consulting the following people may help you get a clearer picture of your parent’s abilities, understand the serious implications of unsafe driving, and discover new tips and resources. Your transition team could consist of any or all of the following:
  • A senior driving safety examiner, who can schedule a driving assessment
  • Other family members who have similar concerns
  • A representative at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for help reviewing your loved one’s driving skills
  • An elder law attorney who can discuss the legal consequences of unsafe driving
  • Your parent’s doctor, who can recommend driving restrictions
  • Your parent’s friends and neighbors who may have witnessed their unsafe driving
  • The local police department, if your parent poses a clear safety hazard yet refuses to stop driving

5. Have a conversation with your loved one

Patience, respect, and a willingness to compromise are necessary if you want to effectively get your aging parent to stop driving. The following tips may help you arrive at a solution and avoid conflict:
  • Ensure you’re prepared. Organize notes containing observations and other key points about your loved one’s driving abilities. Talk to anyone who’s voiced concerns about their driving so you can present a unified front.
  • Frame the conversation as a change, not a loss. A lot of the resistance to giving up driving stems from a fear of losing independence. However, most communities offer services that can help your loved one remain active, mobile, and safe.
  • State your concerns, and present alternative methods of getting around. If your loved one insists that they’re fine, offer to take them for a senior driver safety evaluation or to get an opinion from their doctor. If they become upset, take a break from the discussion and restart it at another time. If they’re interested in transportation alternatives, explore the options with them. Change is always easier with support.
  • Remember that this discussion may be a process, not a one-time thing. Start by compromising. For example, instead of handing over their keys, have your loved one agree that they will not drive at night or on the freeway. If warning signs persist, discuss safer alternatives or additional driving limitations.
  • Balance feelings with realistic concerns about safety. Ultimately, being safe is in your loved one’s best interest. Explain that you’re worried about their well-being and that of other drivers and pedestrians in the community.
  • Know your options if your loved one refuses to stop driving. Some families may take drastic action, like hiding a senior’s car keys or immobilizing their car. These steps may keep them off the road, but they can spark additional conflict and may be illegal. In some states, you can request a driver review with the DMV regarding elderly driving concerns. In some cases, speaking with the local police force about how to legally stop someone with dementia from driving may be necessary to keep your loved one safe.

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Can a doctor stop an elderly person from driving?

A doctor can’t ban an elderly person from driving. However, a doctor can review an elderly person’s physical and mental health to see whether there are factors that could affect their ability to drive safely. In some states, this medical status report can be presented to the DMV as proof that they should stop driving.

Taking the next step in preventing dangerous elderly driving

Discussing driving with your aging parent can be difficult, but it’s important for their safety and the safety of others. Remember, the goal is to find solutions that keep them safe while respecting their independence.
Having this conversation might not be easy, and it may take time. Your loved one might not want to stop driving, and that’s understandable. Be ready to listen to their concerns, offer support, and make compromises if needed. If safety continues to be a concern, you might need to take stronger steps, but always keep their dignity and feelings in mind.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 28). Older Adult Drivers.

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OurParents Staff

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