If you’re concerned about your relative’s driving, you may be reluctant to discuss this with them, perhaps for fear of causing offence or hurting their feelings.

Nothing is more important than your relative’s safety and, of course, the safety of other road users. These situations may not always seem easy to approach, but there are a number of things you can do to help steer the conversation in a positive and constructive direction.

On this page you will find information relating to:

1. Approaching the conversation
2. Examples and alternatives
3. What if my relative won't listen to me? 

Approaching the conversation

Being able to drive is not just a useful means of getting around, it is a measure of independence and self-sufficiency. Many people will have fond memories associated with driving, too. You should be sensitive and respectful when discussing the issue with your relative. 

However, this doesn't mean you should let emotion cloud the issue. Remember, you have your relative’s very best interests at heart: you have a duty to look out for their safety. This is a sensitive issue, so listen to their concerns, but don’t let emotion cloud the issue. If it helps, take time out and re-raise the issue another day, but don’t let the subject be brushed under the carpet.

You may find it easier to have another family member or friend, someone your relative trusts, with you when having this conversation. 

Be careful to avoid a situation whereby it seems as if you are ‘ganging up’ on your relative; try to make the atmosphere open, friendly and supportive throughout. 

Alternatively, consider whether your relative might be more willing to receive this advice from an impartial third party, such as a doctor or driving specialist.

Don’t discount the possibility that your relative may welcome the conversation. It may be that they weren’t aware of the issue(s) you’re raising and are grateful for your concern in bringing it to their attention. Or perhaps your relative has known they were having problems but felt reluctant to admit it; in which case, they may be relieved to have someone to talk with and to share in the decision-making.

Examples and alternatives

It is usually best not to make blanket statements about your relative's ability, but rather to give specific, gentle examples of your concerns, such as, ‘I’ve noticed you have difficulty putting on the seat belt’, or perhaps begin with a question: ‘Do you find it easy to apply the handbrake? I know you’ve had some pain in that hand recently.’

Your relative may be so used to driving that they have never considered the alternatives. Do some research in advance to find what other options may be available and suitable for them. See also our advice on What are the alternatives to driving?

It may be useful and persuasive to consider the costs of keeping and driving a car – insurance, servicing, maintenance and repairs and vehicle tax as well as petrol or diesel, not to mention depreciation (loss in value) of newer vehicles. 

If your relative only does a very low annual mileage, the cost per mile may well work out greater than for taking a taxi each time they wish to go somewhere, let alone using other, cheaper, forms of transport.

What if my relative won't listen to me?

If you (and/or others, including maybe your relative's GP) have talked to your relative and they have decided to continue driving, but you remain convinced that they are putting themselves or others in danger, you can report your concerns to the DVLA. You can discuss the specifics of your concerns or – where all else has failed – report your relative as an unsafe/unfit driver.

Your relative’s safety must come first, of course, but be aware of the potential upset that this action may cause him or her. Although you can ask the DVLA to treat your report anonymously, consider how it would make you feel to be reported to the authorities as an unsafe driver.

But again, if you have exhausted all other options and are very concerned about your relative’s safety, then you may feel that this is the only option available to you. The DVLA/DVLNI are ultimately responsible for deciding who is fit and safe to drive, and only they have the power to revoke a driving license – see Who is responsible for the safety of older drivers?.

To report an unsafe driver via the internet, complete this online form.

In Northern Ireland, licensing rules may differ slightly. For more information, see this page on the nidirect.gov.uk website.

More information

  • Talking about care options: practical advice on making tricky conversations go just that little bit more smoothly.
  • Get care advice: if you think that your relative might need care and support, but don't know where to start, our tool provides tailored information and advice.
  • Richard’s story details his struggle to convince his mother that she was no longer safe to drive.

Page last reviewed: 31 January 2016
Next review due: 31 August 2017