Last week, I took my 65-year-old mother into the DMV to get her new Virginia driver's license. Having just moved to Virginia from Pennsylvania, she fully expected to undergo vision, hearing, and driving tests in order to get her new accreditation. But much to our mutual surprise, she had only to take a quick one-line vision test before she was given her new license. A license that she does not need to renew for another eight years.
"I'll be 73 by then," my mom said in surprise, "Wouldn't you think they would want to check out my driving a few times between now and then?" I was pretty shocked, too. And it made me realize that when the time does come to take away my mom's keys, it's going to come from me, and not from the DMV.
A story on NPR yesterday, When Should Seniors Hang Up Their Car Keys?
, had my full attention, and it prompted me to do a little research on how and when adult kids should ask their parents to stop driving. Here are the signs to look for when evaluating whether or not it's time to ask your parents to hand over their keys:
Minor fender benders and/or traffic citations
Getting lost frequently, even while driving on familiar roads
Drifting into other lanes or driving erratically
Trouble reading street signs or navigating directions
The big test, experts say, is whether or not you would let your own children ride in the car with your parents. If you think your parents driving is too risky for your kids to be in the car, why would you risk the lives of other children who may be on the road?
If you do decide to ask your parents to stop driving, make sure you also have some alternatives to offer so that your parents don't feel stuck or helpless. Offer to do the driving yourself or hire a responsible neighbor or friend to be on call for shopping trips and doctor appointments. Most importantly, tap into a little empathy and try to imagine what this might feel like for your parents. Don't accuse them of wrongdoing, just let them know that you're doing this because you love them and don't want them to get hurt or hurt other people.
Have you ever had to ask your parents to stop driving? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.