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Unsafe Elderly Drivers
updated: Mar 08, 2014, 10:30 AM

By Edhat Subscriber

I wonder whether any edhatters have had an experience in reporting to the DMV an elder driver whom they believe to unsafe? Whether a family member or a neighbor or just someone known or observed -- what results were achieved by notifying the DMV of suspicions that the driver should be investigated and/or retested for competency to continue operating a motor vehicle?

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 501209 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 10:46 AM

Tell the doctor to report it.


 COMMENT 501213 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 11:06 AM

Minding your own business always a good policy.


 COMMENT 501214 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 11:06 AM

Potentially unsafe drivers of any age can be reported to the DMV and they have a website about it.

The person reporting is not the ultimate judge of who drives, the DMV decides. But the person reporting could prevent an accident which could be tragic for everyone involved, including the driver. For some drivers, their being unsafe is highly obvious.


 COMMENT 501217P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 11:10 AM

Doctors are loathe to report (My son is a doctor). We had this problem with my mother who lived in a different part of CA. She was well known in her small town to run stop signs and even drive in the wrong lane. According to those who were unlucky enough to be in the car with her, she even was the cause of accidents due to improper lane changes.

We talked with the CHP who said we needed to have her doctor evaluate her. Her doctor cited HIPAA laws even though we were not ASKING for information, but were GIVING information. He did nothing. Finally she solved the problem for us by driving her car into a ditch and totaling it. Just imagine if that had been an oncoming car.

Reports should be taken as seriously as cell phone use and other driving dangers, but, the AARP has had a strong lobby and stand against testing of the elderly.

Good luck in your quest!!


 COMMENT 501220P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 11:27 AM

214...Finally a voice of reason!

To the others, driving is not a right, it is a privilege. My mother who was fully consumed by dementia was focused on getting her driver's license even though she didn't drive. I figured there wouldn't be a problem because she wouldn't pass the written test, and this was true until her 3rd attempt when she DID pass. I had her drive home on a path that she followed for 30 years going to work and back, and she got horribly lost. There were obvious landmarks that should have triggered her memory so she could turn back, but nothing got her on the right path until we were in the right lane approaching an intersection and she realized she wanted to be in the left lane and would have headed that direction despite the cars that were occupying those two lanes if I hadn't been there to keep her going straight. What should have been a 3 mile trip ended up being 9 miles because of the creative path that she forged.

Being equipped with a formidable weapon isn't a "minor thing". We'll hear a different tune from those of you that feel that impaired/incompetent drivers shouldn't be reported for assessment when that nice little old man next door mows you down.


 COMMENT 501225 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 11:46 AM

Years ago, I was waiting for the light to turn @Fairview & Calle Real. Suddenly, I was hit from behind and my car was pushed a few feet forward. After a few seconds, I was hit from behind a second time, then a third time. A pedestrian on the sidewalk was yelling in disbelief and pointing at the car behind me.

Both myself and the other driver pulled into the nearby gas station. It turns out the driver was an elderly man who had to walk with the assistance of a cane. He clearly was having problems walking and his right leg was visibly trembling.

My rear bumper was amazingly not bent (but badly scratched). After checking to make sure the old man was OK, I made a decision to let him go and not report him. Guess I felt sorry for him. To this day, I still wonder what happened to that man.


 COMMENT 501226P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 11:52 AM

When my mom became a questionable driver, we sat her down and talked about it and she willingly agreed to give driving.


 COMMENT 501227P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 11:52 AM

Meant 'give up'...


 COMMENT 501232 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 12:22 PM

Wow, weird how many hostile answers there are!
I reported my Mom at age 84. She was hitting parked cars and shopping carts. She could barely walk and had neuropathy in her feet, so could not feel the pedals well. Darn right it was time to report her! Her doctor would not do it (because he did not want to lose her business) but said there was nothing specific medically for him to cite.
It took 6 months, but the DMV called her in for a driving test, which she failed. She took it again and passed. Two months later she became acutely disoriented on the way to lunch, behind the wheel at a stop sign. She was hospitalized due to acute dementia and infection from her neglected leg ulcers. She never drove again.
To naysayers, seriously, you have probably never had an elderly parent losing their faculties. At least not one who defiantly refused to acknowledge their impairment.


 COMMENT 501234 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 12:27 PM

My father was very ill and would lose control of his muscles yet he still insisted on driving. He had an accident on a mountain road one day, with a passenger, that could have resulted in death if he had been just a few inches more off the road. At that point my siblings and I contacted his Dr. who told him it was time to stop driving and reported to the DMV that my father was no longer safe to drive. Prior to that we had suggested it but gotten so much fight and drama from Dad that it was the best route, he respected his Dr and accepted it. Utilize the person's Dr. if they are truly unsafe to drive, don't let it become a person thing, life is too short to have them hate you, especially if they are family!


 COMMENT 501235 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 12:33 PM

You can make a report with the DMV, it is called a priority re-exam.


 COMMENT 501237 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 01:05 PM

Keep in mind, a person with dementia who promises not to drive may forget they said any such thing. A person with dementia whose license is taken away loses their insurance, but may drive anyway, and if there is an accident?? So if you plan to stop an elder from driving, be sure to also take the car and move it away. Taking the keys is not enough..people have spare keys.


 COMMENT 501238 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 01:09 PM

I had a friend that was affected by a form of dementia that slowly made him difficult to talk with about his horrible and unsafe driving. He hit things and damaged his car several times. Partly due to his being near legally blind. He eventually did not care if he hurt anyone else. His license was finally taken away by the DMV but that did not stop him from driving. Only luck prevented a tragic accident. His dementia suddenly worsened and he couldn't operate his car much less even a toaster. It's not easy to reason with some one who only see's giving up driving as a loss of independence even if they are able to has a rational discussion. OP, more power to you. I think you are doing the right thing. Good luck


 COMMENT 501243 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 02:32 PM

She is probably a better driver than most people. I am sure she doesn't text, blab, or read e-mails while driving. Most people seem to think at a red light this is the time to text.


 COMMENT 501252 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 02:53 PM

I did, they made the person take the Test. They had to do the written test and the driving test. They passed both. They shouldn't be driving, it endangers them and the public,but the DMV passed them


 COMMENT 501259 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 03:43 PM

Yes 214 is correct. You report it anonymously to the DMV. I reported my mother. They sent her something to fill out and information about tests she needed to take. Of course, she was outraged and couldn't even finish filling out the form. I'm sorry I upset her, but I know I did the right thing. We sold her car soon afterwards, but she kept going out the door with her keys in hand. Dementia is a horrible, horrible thing.


 COMMENT 501260P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 03:46 PM

Thanks to the comment who posted the link and real info. While I hate the tattle-tale nanny-state, unsafe drivers endanger us all. Report them to the DMV and hope they get tested fairly.

In our case, my elderly mother had her license taken away, even though we felt she could still drive safely, and was responsible about limiting her driving to safe times and locations. My much more unsafe father continued to drive aggressively until a week before he died. A friend's father hit and caused the death of an elderly person crossing the street, and it ruined their life and their retirement.

We really need better transportation options for the elderly than relying on family, friends, expensive &/or rule-bound options. I'd like to see motorized, 15 mph max, 15 miles or less, affordable tricycles/ motorized chairs accepted in our bike lanes. That would help numerous impaired people still be able to get out and about to the grocery store, church, and other local errands.


 COMMENT 501264 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 03:56 PM

It's one thing if you're reporting a relative. It's another entirely if you're reporting a total stranger or neighbour whom you may not be totally clued in to. If it's the latter wouldn't it be really humane and civil to engage in a conversation with the individual? Find out if they have anyone who can do the driving for them, maybe you can offer to help.

But depriving someone of their only means of getting around - to the doctor's, to the store etc. - and leaving them destitute is pretty cruel and unusual punishment when they are getting by the best way the can.

Best hope that what goes around doesn't come back around. Old age is not for sissies and it happens to just about everybody.


 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 03:59 PM

When I took my aunt to her doctor and said she had Alzeheimers the doctor said, "I have to notify the DMV." She did and that was the end of it. My mom was 92 when she fainted one day at home; she was an excellent driver but never drove again because she was afraid she might faint while driving. She never fainted again.


 COMMENT 501270 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 04:25 PM

I see unsafe drivers on the road every day. Why should it matter if they are elderly or not?


 COMMENT 501271 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 04:33 PM

I'm amazed that anyone wouldn't be in favor of reporting a driver of any age who seems to be impaired. How would you like it if that driver ran into you? I saw this REALLLLLY old dude hobble out to his car in the parking lot at Ralphs one day. It took him the better part of a ninute just to get the door open--and it wasn't locked. He could barely see over the steering wheel of his well-battered old Chevy. He was finally able to negotiate the car out from its parking space and off he went. I'm sure he had no reflexes whatsoever. Did I take down his license plate and report him? No. And I've regretted it ever since.

Narking someone out to the DMV because they're a jerk is one thing; narking them out for dangerous driving is quite another.


 COMMENT 501280 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 05:32 PM

I think the "hostile" comments may be coming from those who are older and probably know they are unsafe on the roads. Why else would one object to removing an unsafe driver from our streets. In reporting such a driver you are not only possibly protecting yourself and your family, but the elderly driver from serious harm.


 COMMENT 501284P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 06:11 PM

270...The OP didn't suggest the person they were wondering about is elderly, but the discussion kind of went that way. Young people that have questionable judgement when driving will get better as they go along. Young, reckless people can stop hotdogging and be the kind of driver you don't mind being around. Bad drivers that are elderly tend to get worse over time.

One option that hasn't been mentioned here is that some occupational therapists are trained to assess an individual's ability to drive. They assess reaction times, cognitive understanding of rules of the road, visual acuity and other things that factor into driving. Insurance doesn't consider driving to be medically necessary so won't cover this, but it may be worth it if your family member is questionable in their driving skills. The therapist makes recommendations to the doctor about the fitness of the individual to safely be on the road. Here's a link: http://www.bot.ca.gov/forms_pubs/driver_spreadsheet.pdf


 COMMENT 501285P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 06:13 PM

Oops 270...I do see the "elderly" now. Sorry!


 COMMENT 501292P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 07:46 PM

A couple of experiences: About 10 years ago I was driving to work south along the 101 coast toward Ventura on an extremely stormy night. With the driving rain it was hard to see clearly, and the oncoming lights from big rig trucks looked like they were coming straight at me at times. Just before the exit to the short section of Highway 1, I saw light coming at me again--but this time, they really were right in front of me. A driver had entered the freeway going in the wrong direction. I flashed my lights, honked my horn, and pulled next to the driver, forcing them to the side of the road on my right. We both stopped about 30 seconds before a couple of big rig trucks went whizzing past--had she remained in the lane there would have been a head-on collision. I got out, and it turned out to be a rather distraught little elderly lady with her 2 friends in the back, one of whom was on oxygen. She had gotten disoriented or turned around in the rain, with the poor visibility. She was driving them, and herself, home after going to dinner at a friend's house. She wanted me to "help her turn around" so she could continue on home, but I explained that it was too unsafe. I called the CHP and stayed with the elderly ladies until they arrived. I have no doubt that she lost her license, but I can't say that I felt the least guilt. I was just grateful no one got killed.
A few years ago, my dad, living alone in Nebraska, was driving himself even after he got to the point where he couldn't remember where he lived. I repeatedly asked my brother to have his doctor evaluate him, but he was reluctant, since it also meant one of us would have to start providing 24 hour care/supervision. Finally his doctors at his local clinic called their State Police, and the issue was resolved--no more driving. Dad had to move in with my brother until he found him an Assisted Living arrangement. A doctor can easily determine whether or not an elderly person has the cognitive skills and reflexes to drive safely, and most are more than willing to do an evaluation if a family member expresses concern. If the result is "no", they send a report to the DMV, who then revokes the license. It's still up to family to remove the car, or the keys at least, and provide alternate transportation. The DMV doesn't test based on reports from family, although they can certainly require medical clearance. They do take the doctor's reports, though, and will revoke a license based on that. The CHP/police also refer people to their physician, unless some infringement or accident makes it clear that impairment is an issue; then they can revoke a license or require medical clearance.


 COMMENT 501310P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-08 11:13 PM

OP here. First, thank you to the many EDhatters who have been willing to participate in this discussion, difficult as it may have been. Second, for those whose knee jerk it was to immediately make a judgment about me because I asked the question, please take a moment to look at what caused you to react that way in the first place.

I asked because I have a close family member who is 98 and is someone I believe to be an impaired driver. I've spoken to him directly about it repeatedly and spoken about my concerns with several members of my family. I've also talked to his doctors. Before I take the next step of completing the report to the DMV, which my conscience dictates that I should do, I wanted to know whether it has been anyone else's experience that doing so was successful.

It is hard enough to be dealing with the emotional turmoil that churns up from diminished independence that stems from the various aspects of aging; adding to it the potential responsibility of harming others only makes matters more difficult. This particular elder nods in agreement when we talk about it, yet refuses to voluntarily relinquish his driving privilege. It saddens me to face the need to report him, but it appears I must do so and hope that it will result in his actually losing the ability to drive.

Meanwhile, there is now a locking device affixed to the steering wheel of his car, to which he doesn't have the key.


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