Richard realised his mother was a danger to herself and others when she drove in the early stages of her dementia.
“She was always an erratic driver, quite terrifying really, doing things like turning left or right at the last minute, and she never concentrated properly. But as she got older, her driving became really dangerous because she was deaf and so she couldn’t hear traffic and people sounding their horns.
She had glaucoma, too, and was more or less blind in her left eye. So she found it very hard to judge distances and she didn’t see lorries coming at her and she’d just pull out in front of them. One time she opened the door without looking and a passing car ripped the door off!
I started getting phone calls from people in her village saying, ‘You’ve got to do something about her driving.’ Next time I was driving with her, I very quickly realised they were telling the truth when she nearly hit a cyclist.
Time to stop driving
I told her I thought it was time to hang her keys up. She tore a strip off me. Of course, she thought it was never her fault and she said, ‘All you’re trying to do is take away my independence.’ Looking back, I realise she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She carried on driving every day.
The worst thing is when everybody says to you, ‘You’ve got to stop her driving before she kills someone.’ People were phoning me to say they’d just seen her nearly hit another car or reverse into a wall. I was waking up in the night feeling sick with worry.
Me talking to her didn’t work. I didn’t know what to do. I thought about taking the keys. One time I took one of the spark plugs out – this was in the days when you could. But she just called up the garage and they came and fixed it and she was back on the road.
The fear factor
"The GP told Mum she had to stop driving and he wrote to the DVLA reporting that she was medically not fit to drive."
Eventually I rang her doctor up and explained I thought she should stop driving. He said, ‘I can’t just stop her driving because you might have a hidden motive.’ I pointed out that she was deaf and blind and I was terrified she might knock someone down. I said that I thought she knew something was wrong and it was making her anxious. So he went and assessed her. He told her she had to stop driving and he wrote to the DVLA reporting that she was medically not fit to drive. Then they revoked her license. She was so angry!
But it worked. She kept her car for a while and got other people to drive her around in it, then she gave it to a good friend of hers on the understanding that he would give her lifts when she needed them. She was happy and he was delighted!”
- Read What can affect safe driving? for conditions that might affect your relative’s ability to drive safely.
- If you are in a similar situation to Richard, read our helpful guide to Talking to your relative about their driving.
- If you are concerned that someone might have dementia, read Dementia and other memory problems for help and advice.
Page last reviewed: January 2016
Next review due: January 2018