Taking away the car keys: What to do when a friend or loved one shouldn’t drive anymore.
Most of us remember getting our driver’s licenses as teenagers and the thrill at the independence it brought. As we age, the privilege of driving continues to be a symbol of independence. I remember when it became clear to me that my own mother was no longer capable of safe driving but she refused to voluntarily give up the keys. So what do you do if you know someone who’s no longer safe behind the wheel? There are steps you can take.
First, talk to the person. They may already know they are not as sharp as they used to be and may voluntarily stop driving. This should be followed up with a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles to turn in the “driver’s” license and get a “walking” ID card.
If you have permission to talk to the person’s physician or eye doctor, arrange for an appointment to discuss the driving. Hearing from a doctor that they should no longer be driving might be enough. (It was for my mom, but she was crushed.) If the person still refuses, the doctor can prepare a report regarding the inability to drive and submit it to the DMV and the DMV will initiate a review of the driver.
If that doesn’t work or you don’t have access to a physician you can write the DMV and notify them of the impaired driver. Most states will treat this request anonymously then initiate a review of the driver which may include requiring a doctor’s authorization for continued driving and an in-person driving test. You should check your state’s DMV website for specific guidance, forms, etc.
Be aware that when someone stops driving, even voluntarily, they can become depressed or angry. You can ease the transition by making provisions for alternate transportation to the activities they enjoyed when they were driving.
Active duty or retired Servicemembers and their ID card holder Family Members may be eligible for free legal assistance. To find a legal assistance office near you call your nearest military installation or go to http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php.
Mary Benzinger is the Army Legal Assistance Attorney at the Pentagon Joint Legal Assistance Office, Washington, D.C.