elderly man behind the wheel of a car

How to tell dad he shouldn’t be driving

April 10, 2023

In a previous article, we talked about signs that dad shouldn’t be driving. Helpful as we hope that information is, there’s still the dilemma of how to tell dad he shouldn’t be driving. Depending on your relationship with Dad, or any aging loved one you need to have this conversation with, this could be a very simple, easy-going discussion or it could be rife with drama and turmoil.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you think Dad won’t react to this conversation too well. Or, you just want to have a few more arrows in your quiver to be better prepared.

daughter having tea with father to make telling him he shouldn't drive anymore easeier

Have the discussion sooner than later

No one wants to take Dad’s driving away. But if his driving is a danger to himself or those around him, or is a threat to public and private property, this talk needs to happen sooner or later. And you should go into this knowing that if you don’t have this discussion, there’s a high probability that someone in authority will. At that point, Dad’s feelings on the matter will be of secondary, if any, concern.

The idea here is to waste no time talking with him because, hopefully, at this point, a tragic incident hasn’t happened yet.

Be as gentle as possible

It is extremely important that you always keep a level head. This is going to be a touchy subject and you’re likely going to get some pushbacks. You might get yelled at and there might be some name calling thrown your way. You might also hear some choice wording.

Be prepared for this in advance. Being ready for it and knowing what you’re stepping into will help you get this conversation going.

adult daughter and her father sharing a smile

Take time to understand his feelings

Put yourself in Dad’s shoes. He’s been driving for a long time. He might have taught you to drive and imagine how humiliating he might find it to have you tell him he needs to surrender his keys.

In his mind, he’s been doing this forever, knows the roads like the back of his hand and he totally has everything under control. He might admit that there’ve been a fender bender or two, or a scratch here and there. He likely won’t see it as anything serious and may challenge you on this every step of the way.

He’ll likely take this as a threat to his freedom. And in some ways, it is. It definitely is going to be an adjustment.

Make a list of how you think Dad will feel about this and prepare yourself to see this from his perspective.

elderly man on phone calling a car service

Talk about alternatives

There are lots of options for Dad when it comes to still getting around without a driver’s license. If he’s open to it, now it might be a great time to get to know the bus system or start walking to where they want to go if that’s a reasonable option.

Lyft and Uber also have some great options for seniors, and more recently, they’ve been trying to cater more to this demographic.

Most shopping can be ordered online and delivered nowadays, so there are options there.

If you’re so inclined, you might arrange a day or two each week to take him out on errands. There are also volunteers who are there to help seniors get around.

orange traffic cones with car approaching from distance to highlight dad needing a driving test

Have him take a driving test

If you still can’t convince him that he shouldn’t be driving, perhaps he won’t mind proving he’s still capable. His arguments might very well be justified and a trip to the local DMV for a driving test could settle the matter. If he passes, you both can rest assured he’s good to go – for now. If he doesn’t, then there will be no other option.

If he passes his driving test, be prepared – he might be inclined to throw a few “I told you so’s” at you. Let him. As long as he’s not going overboard.

If he fails, resist the temptation to gloat. Instead, just be there for him. Now you both can start having the conversation about options.

an advocate helps an elderly couple discuss why dad shouldn't drive

Have a family member or an outside advocate with you

There’s nothing wrong with having someone with you to broach the subject of Dad not driving. A trusted family member, or a family friend he respects could go a long way to easing the shock these concerns might bring him.

Keep in mind, this could also backfire, so make sure you and the family member go in this with your facts in hand. Keep the conversation focused and remember, the better prepared you are, the better the outcome will be.

A third-party advocate can come in and help you have this conversation with Dad too. This kind of potential conflict resolution is in their job description, and they are good at keeping the conversation focused. They should also have alternatives and counters to the objections Dad might raise.

adult daughter making a plan for the conversation with dad about him not driving

Have a plan for when he refuses to stop driving

At the end of this, if he completely refuses your advice, and you are absolutely convinced his being behind the wheel is going to lead to an eventual disaster, you may have to take legal action.

This is where you’ll want an elder law attorney or even an advocate who can explain your options and what you can do.

This might become a legal matter, and if it does, you’re going to need some good advice on what your next steps should be.

If you really feel dad shouldn’t be driving, act sooner rather than later.