Manners Matter: Hand Over the Keys Please
Dear Mary Pat,
My dad just turned 89 and is in great health overall. In fact, most people don’t believe me when I say how old he is. The only place where he is showing his age is behind the wheel. He is having issues with his vision and his reaction times aren’t what they used to be. My mom is a couple of years younger and is terrified of his driving. She said he ran a couple of stop signs accidentally and isn’t the best at staying in his lane. It has caused a lot of tension between them. She told him that she should be the one to drive, and he thought that was ridiculous. My siblings and I have all tried to reason with him, but he is being stubborn. His pride is hurt and he feels like we are all overreacting. We are out of ideas and are fearful of what might happen. Do you have any suggestions?
Hand Over the Keys Please
Dear Hand Over the Keys Please,
This is a delicate issue and you need to be sensitive to your dad’s feelings. More importantly though, you need to put the safety of others before your dad’s feelings. It sounds like he is in denial about his driving ability. And while I sympathize with him and how hard it must be to give up part of his independence, just imagine how he would feel if he caused an accident. He is risking his life, your mom’s life and the lives of those he encounters on the road.
If he isn’t going to listen to reason, you have to take action. Schedule a family meeting as soon as possible and lovingly tell your dad the unvarnished truth. Tell him that you are so worried about what could happen and that you have all come to the decision that it is time for him to stop driving. You should all be honest and direct and your mom should speak too. Then let him know that you would prefer that he voluntarily gives driving up. And if he refuses, let him know that you have no choice put to file a report with the DMV and that they will ultimately have to make that decision. This might seem harsh and extreme, but it is really an act of love. Hopefully your dad will accept this gracefully. If not, you can’t let his anger prevent you from doing the right thing.
Here is the link for reporting someone who isn’t able to drive safely: wisconsindot.gov/Pages/dmv/license-drvs/mdcl-cncrns/reportingunsafedriver.aspx.