Approaching the conversation
Nothing is more important than your loved one’s safety and, of course, the safety of other road users or pedestrians. But even if you’re concerned about their driving, you may be reluctant to discuss this with them, perhaps for fear of causing offence or hurting their feelings. However, there are a number of things you can do to help steer the conversation in a positive and constructive direction.
Being able to drive is not just a useful means of getting around, it’s 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.
This is a sensitive issue, so listen to their concerns, but don’t let emotion cloud the issue.
However, this doesn’t mean you should let emotion prevent the problem being discussed. Remember, you have your loved one’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 ignored.
Ask a family member or friend to join you
You may find it easier to have another family member or friend with you when having this conversation. However, be careful to avoid a situation where it appears you’re ‘ganging up’ on your loved one; try to make the atmosphere open, friendly and supportive throughout. Alternatively, consider whether they 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 loved one 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 they have 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.
I said that I thought my mother knew something was wrong with her driving and it was making her anxious.
Examples and alternatives
It’s usually best not to make blanket statements about 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 loved one 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 friend or 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 loved one’s GP) have talked to them and they have decided to continue driving, but you remain convinced that they’re 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 loved one as an unsafe/unfit driver.
You can report your concerns to the DVLA.
Your loved one’s safety must come first, of course, but be aware of the potential upset that this action may cause them. 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.
However, if you have exhausted all other options, you may feel that this is the only avenue available to you. The DVLA is ultimately responsible for deciding who is fit and safe to drive in the UK, and only they have the power to revoke a driving licence – 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 differ slightly. For more information, see nidirect.gov.uk.
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