What to do When Driving is No Longer Safe

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can impair a person to the point of not being safe to drive. As Parkinson’s progresses, it can get more difficult to react quickly and to think of several things at once. Some people get blurry vision or begin seeing double. Drug therapy also may cause sleepiness, mental impairment, or even hallucinations. With Alzheimer’s, deteriorating concentration, impaired judgment, and lack of memory all can result in disorientation, failure to understand traffic signals, and slow or poor driving decisions that endanger not only the driver but also others on the road. Studies have shown that a person who has Alzheimer’s disease is twice as likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident as a healthy driver of the same age. Studies also show that even mild Alzheimer’s can pose risks, and the risks increase as the condition worsens.

Many people who have Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s recognize a point when it is no longer safe to drive. However, others insist on driving when they should not. Family members and others should assess the situation and when necessary take away the keys. You should also contact your family member’s physicians and share your concerns. Some persons will listen to the physician over their own family. Also, in some states the physician may forward a report to the state driving authorities, who can require that the person stop driving unless he or she passes a new driving test.

Planning tip: You should not transfer your parent’s car into your own name if you have concerns about your parent continuing to drive. That’s because a car owner is personally liable for an accident caused by someone else driving the car.

There are various strategies for preventing someone from driving. For some families it works well when the parent during the early stages of the disease signs a contract, agreeing to stop driving later when they may no longer be able to recognize the danger themselves. Sometimes it becomes necessary to hide keys or disable the car, or to remove the car altogether. If you disable the car, remember to discontinue the AAA membership too. And, if the car is removed, be sure to tell the police of the situation to avoid problems if the car is reported missing by your family member. And in all circumstances, you will need to develop an alternative plan for transportation so the person who has Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s will not become isolated.

This is a difficult time, and family members need to approach this decision with compassion and love, but with a firm resolve to do what is needed to keep their loved one safe and to prevent injury to others.