What's at stake?
It’s hard for dad. He does value his independence.
Conversations about giving up driving can bring up strong emotions. Your relative could be concerned about driving, but might be struggling to accept the idea of giving up their car and licence. Be aware that:
- They may be worried about how they will get around if they no longer drive, and reluctant to rely more on others
- They may be concerned about losing their social life and independence
- Your concern for their safety could be taken as criticism of their skills and ability
- They may prefer to discuss concerns about their driving with a professional, rather than a friend or family member
- If they don’t think there is a problem with their driving, this may come completely out of the blue for them – they won’t have been able to prepare for the conversation like you have.
Remember that unless the DVLA or a GP have declared that they are not allowed to drive, it is ultimately your relative’s decision whether to stop driving – your role is to encourage them to think about whether they are still safe behind the wheel.
If there is more than one person available to have this conversation, think carefully about who the best person to do this might be. Who is your relative most likely to listen to, or respond well to? Who has been in the car with them most often or most recently? It might be that someone outside of the family needs to have this conversation with your relative – it may be difficult for them to accept this message from their children, for example.
We had some very difficult conversations with my Granny about her stopping driving. She dug her heels in whenever Mum tried to talk to her about it, and she wouldn’t listen to me either. It was only when she had a driving assessment that she finally listened – to the man who carried out the assessment. She (reluctantly) respected his professional opinion.
When to talk
If you have concerns, it’s really important to have an open conversation. Approach it positively, well in advance.
It’s best to start having these conversations before your relative gets to a point where they are unsafe on the road. Talking about it as a future prospect gives them more time to adjust to the idea of giving up driving, and consider possible alternatives for getting around.
If you have immediate concerns about someone’s safety on the road, talk to them as soon as possible. The safety of your relative and other road users must come first. If you’re in the car with a relative when they have a near-miss, for example, give them some time to recover but bring it up soon after: “That was a close call in the car earlier – I’m worried about your safety when you’re driving”.
To be nicely honest is important. You need to get them to see what they need to see.
How to start the conversation
- Bring it up when discussing a health problem which has recently developed or got worse: “Have you ever asked your doctor whether your condition or medication could affect your driving?”
- Ask them questions about their driving habits to get them thinking: “I know you are happy driving locally, but do you still feel ok about driving on the motorway?” Or “How do you feel about driving in the dark now?”
- Tie it into recent events: “Did you hear about the car accident in the news today?” or “Did you hear what happened to xx down the road?”
- Talk from your own experiences: “Driving just gets more and more stressful” or “That new road is always so busy, I’d avoid it if I could”…
What are the options?
Dad doesn’t drive at night any more – he feels his eyesight isn’t good enough. And he only drives short distances.
Your relative may not need to give up driving completely. Could they drive shorter distances, or change where or when they are driving?
If your relative doesn’t accept they need to reduce or give up driving, you could suggest they have a driver assessment to give you both peace of mind. Anyone can have one, so perhaps your relative would be more willing to have an assessment if you also put yourself forward for one? This isn’t quite the same as a driving test - the assessor cannot stop somebody from driving - but they will give advice based on their driving ability. Even if they aren’t willing to have an assessment, you could encourage your relative to contact a driving safety expert from RoSPA – to discuss any concerns around their driving and get safety advice.
Another option might be to suggest that you both talk to your relative’s GP about their safety on the road. Be aware that the GP may not be willing to express an opinion, unless there’s an obvious medical reason why your relative shouldn’t be driving.
If you and your relative agree that giving up driving completely is the safest option, try and help them to focus on the positives. Getting out and about without a car could save money and reduce stress. But make sure whatever you suggest is practical for that person – are they able to walk to their nearest bus stop, for example?
Alternatives to driving may include:
- Local buses or trains
- Taxis – regular taxi trips could still be much cheaper than running a car
- Community transport – such as dial-a-ride or car schemes run by volunteers
- Using a mobility scooter for short journeys – perhaps your relative could test one out at a mobility centre
- Lifts from friends and family members. If your relative would feel like they were being a burden to others, perhaps they could do something in exchange for the lift? Or maybe other people could use your relative’s car and give them a lift when needed.
Our guide Behind the wheel is full of tips for older drivers about staying confident and safe on the roads for longer, and also encourages people to consider when they might want to get a second opinion on their driving, or stop altogether. You can order a copy for your relative through our website.
Take a look at our page on getting around more easily
Visit olderdrivers.org.uk for a driving self-assessment tool, and details of organisations providing driver assessments in your relative’s area.