Driving is a hallmark of independence that many older people hate to relinquish. For many adults, it marks the end of an era; a period in which they were self-sufficient and autonomous. It’s also a major milestone in a person’s life as it may signify a shift in interpersonal relationships. A daughter may now become a caregiver; a mother may become the one being cared for.
Making the decision to give up driving is hard for all adults. It is difficult for people to recognize when the time has come, which is why caregivers and family members must have patience and compassion for their loved one. Giving up driving is scary. It is a huge change for an older adult and it’s normal to feel sad, panicked, scared and even angry.
Signs You or a Loved One Should Stop Driving
Driving is usually stressful for people with dementia, so many adults with Lewy Body Dementia, Alzheimer’s and other forms of the disease decide to give up driving voluntarily. If you’re not sure if the time has come, here are some red flags to watch for:
- Increasingly irritated or insecure about their ability while driving
- Gets lost easily, especially on familiar roads
- Difficulty calculating speed or distance
- Running into curbs or finding it difficult to stay within the correct lane
- Accidents, near-accidents and minor injuries
- Running into non-moving objects, like mailboxes and fences
- Getting confused about the meaning of signs and traffic signals
- Passengers feel endangered or concerned while riding with the driver
Having a hard time driving is a natural part of the aging process for many adults. Other factors that have nothing to do with dementia, such as vision, hearing, joint pain and slower reflexes, can also play a role.
Helping a Person with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) Surrender Their License
Even though some people with LBD and other dementias voluntarily stop driving, it’s not uncommon for people to object to the idea. Caregivers and family members can ease the transition by talking about it beforehand and helping them to come to the decision on their own rather than removing their privilege by force.
Talk about safety (theirs, their passengers and that of other travelers on the road), use specific examples when possible and take care to be both supportive and understanding throughout the conversation. Also, discuss other options for transportation. Is there a family member or local car service that could provide transportation? Assure your loved one that they will still have freedom, listen to their concerns and address them one by one.
To voluntarily surrender a driver license in New York State, contact a DMV office or Call Center. Get two copies of form MV-326 and return them completed – along with your driver license – to a local office.
New York’s Driver Re-evaluation Program
Some states, such as New York, offer driver re-evaluation programs to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. The re-evaluation program allows the DMV to test a person’s driving ability and decide whether or not to revoke their license based on the results.
In accordance with New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law Section 506 (1), the Commissioner must have “reasonable grounds” to order a re-evaluation test. Re-evaluation requests can come from the following sources:
- Physicians via form DS-6
- Police officers via form DS-5
- Concerned individuals via form DS-7
Visit the New York DMV’s Driver Re-Evaluation Program page to learn more and print the appropriate forms.
Important Resources for Driving Safely
There are some excellent resources on the internet to help you broach the topic of driver safety and when to stop driving. We understand the conversation can be heartbreaking for everyone involved, but thinking about what you want to say in advance and handling the situation with care will make a huge difference.
- AARP – We Need to Talk: The Difficult Driving Conversation
- AARP – Are Your Parents’ Driving Skills Still Sharp?
- Senior Driving AAA – Learn about medication interactions and their effect on driving, comfort and safety while in the driver’s seat with AAA’s free CarFit clinic or register for refresher course for senior drivers.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – NHTSA offers a series of short videos that show how Alzheimer’s and other medical conditions affect a person’s ability to drive. View “Driving with Alzheimer’s Disease” now.
Our team at the Lewy Body Resource Center of New York has worked hard to create a dynamic and comprehensive support system for people with Lewy Body Dementia and their caregivers in New York. For more tips on dementia and driving or to connect with other caregivers and support systems in your community, contact us today.