General Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Is it my business or shall I just butt out?

Asked by SuperMouse (30772points) June 18th, 2009

My 92 year-old grandfather is a wonderful man with his faculties mostly intact, but because of his age, hearing, and reflexes, he is not a safe driver. He is a danger to himself and others and while most of his grandchildren would very much like to see him stop driving, none of his children has stepped up to take away the keys. I mentioned this to my father (his son) who got angry and told me that taking his license would be killing him because without that freedom he would decline and die within a very short time. I told him I wanted to have the DMV call him in for a test and he kept telling me to think about the bad karma involved for me in doing something like that. So, do I make the call or leave it to my grandfather’s children?

Addendum: I think my sister or I has asked this question before, but since his wife died last week, my grandfather is very distracted and this will certainly exacerbate the problem.

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15 Answers

whitenoise's avatar

Talk with your family members. I would say that family has not just a right but even an opinion to intervene. However, you may be a bit too worried and you should go for unity in the family.

That way you can also discuss measures that might compensate your grandfather loosing his license, such as making a more coordinated effort in seeing him regularly.

Be careful, though, not to write him of too quickly. Again… talk to your family members and if you are the only one worrying, then you might consider listening to the rest.
(We have been in a similar situation with our family, but that sorted itself out, since our grandfather opted out from driving himself.)

tinyfaery's avatar

The CA DMV has a hotline you can call so that elderly people will be forced to take a driving test the next time that their licenses come up for renewal.
Remember that guy who plowed through a farmer’s
market in Santa Monica? How guilty would you feel if something like that happened?How about your karma then?

Jeruba's avatar

I suspect that your father and his siblings are feeling uncomfortable about this because they are projecting themselves into his situation and are not willing yet to give you implicit permission to deal with them in this way later on, when their time comes; that is, they are saying, “Would I want my kids to do this to me?” Also they are not ready to admit your father’s state of decline because they remember him as young and robust. It’s a picture of their own future. It is hard to keep personal identification out of these things. But the time seems to be past when they can grant your grandfather all his former autonomy. The transition he faces now after your grandmother’s death may signal the right time.

The last thing your grandfather would want is to be responsible for the injury or death of someone else. He could wind up having his license taken away by the authorities and have to face charges too. How fast would he decline and die in jail or on trial?

Suppose he just hurts himself. Will that be all right with his children?

This should be handled within the family and not by calling in the DMV to take on the family’s responsibility.

Perhaps a different approach to your father, or a talk with one of his siblings and/or one of your cousins, would help pave the way. In fact, if most of the grandchildren feel the same, perhaps you all could put on a concerted effort with your respective parents.

galileogirl's avatar

My grandmother drove from SF to LA until she was 87. She would regale us with stories about all the accidents that happened around her. Finally my uncle had a talk with her and got her to fly. She still drove a few blocks to the store but living in a 50’s+ development most of her social activities were within walking distance. We all committed to visiting her regularly and giving her rides to church, outings and family functions. Try keeping him occupied and riding along seems like he is doing you a favor not vice versa

SuperMouse's avatar

@tinyfaery I think of that guy every time I think of my grandfather behind the wheel! I even brought him up to my dad last night, he just laughed it off.

@Jeruba, my father actually told me last night that he hopes I’m not around to take his license when he hits his 90’s, so I think you hit the nail on the head.

@galileogirl, my uncle, cousin and brother and sister and I are in process of putting together a schedule of who will see him when with the goal of having someone spend time with him daily.

shilolo's avatar

@SuperMouse My grandfather was a truck driver for a living, and thus, was very resistant to having his driving privileges revoked. Only after he was involved in several accidents did my mom and uncle succeed in having him give up driving. My wife’s grandfather, also a former truck driver, still drives locally (and he’s in his 90s too), but also isn’t very safe. Last time we visited, we insisted on renting a car (rather than having him pick us up at the airport) and also insisted on driving him and us everywhere (at least while we were there). This is a very tricky situation. I empathize with your problem.

autumn43's avatar

With many accidents in the last week of elderly drivers (over 80) running over a child and killing her, and others driving INTO stores and injuring people here in Massachusetts, I think it is imperative to ‘butt in’ as you put it. Your Dad might be thinking of all the responsibility that will land on him and his siblings were your grandfather to stop driving. But would they rather see him kill himself or worse, someone else?

At some point the reflexes and faculties are just not there to respond, never mind the hearing problem that you mention. And eyesight is always the telltale sign at the registry when they go to renew. I was renewing my license last year and there was an elderly woman who ‘forgot’ her glasses at home and was given about six chances to find the apple on the picnic table! Scary.

LC_Beta's avatar

I witnessed an elderly driver hit and kill a young woman in San Francisco, and knelt in the street with her while she died. If your grandfather is truly a danger, forget what your father thinks and do something about it.

Darwin's avatar

My father voluntarily stopped driving this year, in part because he decided he couldn’t see well enough to feel that he was a safe driver. However, the date he chose was the date he was to renew his license (his 84th birthday) so he got a ride down to the DMV so he could turn in his license and get a state id card. He was very surprised when they renewed his license, but he still refuses to drive. However, he chose to live in a senior community that offers weekly trips to stores, doctors, and entertainment venues, and that also has a limo for some trips that don’t fit with the group schedule.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so mature as to be able to make that decision for themselves, or even for a loved one. In your case I suggest that before you do anything find out what facilities there are in his area for non-drivers so that when he is approached about not driving you can offer alternative transportation. Also, are you in a position to offer to drive him at least some of the places he needs to go?

The time to act is before your grandfather has an accident that causes injury, so this could very well be the time.

filmfann's avatar

@Darwin Good for your father on knowing when to stop! So many of the aged wait till their 3rd accident before realizing it is time. It is a hard thing for the elderly to adjust to.

ubersiren's avatar

Yeesh… Maybe you could offer to take him somewhere every couple days without bringing up anything about him driving. Like every Sunday, say, “Hey Pap, can I take you to the grocery store today?” If he doesn’t bite, I would wait a while until his mourning has subsided some, then try to talk to him about it. Tell him that you’re not only concerned for him, but other drivers and pedestrians. If he resists, then maybe you’ll have to call someone. This is so hard… We had to do this with my grandfather and recently my husbands grandma.

Supacase's avatar

We had to go through this with my grandfather. He resisted and my dad, his only child, was made to feel a lot of guilt over it.

Granfather has macular degeneration and would tell you that he can only see the color red or a tiny piece of the sky far away clearly in the same sentence that he would say he could still drive. He turned the wrong way into traffic on divided highways more times than I can count. Then everyone started saying, “well, he only drives to the store for milk.” Hello! He has to drive through a neighborhood FULL of children to get to the store.

An agency came in to see if they could provide any products to help improve his eyesight enough for daily tasks like writing out checks to pay the bills. The highest their products went was 4x. He needed 12x. 12x!! And still wanted to drive. The company that came out was legally obligated to report him to the DMV and his license was finally, thankfully, revoked.

scamp's avatar

I had to take my Mother’s car away after she suffered a stroke. Once she was recovered and tried to drive, she kept crossing the center line, and didn’t get back into her own lane until she saw another car almost hit her. It was a very difficult thing for her and I to do, but for both her saftey and others, it was sorely needed.

She was very angry at first, and even turned the tables on me and stuck out to drive with one of her lady friends from church. I actually had to “ground” her so she wouldn’t go out and drive! But once she got used to the idea, she did just fine. The elderly don’t like giving up their freedoms and it’s a hard job, but someone needs to do it. Kudos to you for caring enough to take a stand.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Just a note: Someone in your family might be able to get payed for driving your grandfather around. Senior & Disabled Services offers compensation for anyone who takes a one-hour class in their program. The Senior must qualify but the majority of Seniors are on a fixed income and thus do qualify.

I say it is your responsibility to get involved. If you cannot find alterior ways to work this out with your family then you have to be the “bad gal” and call the DMV. One thing you may try however is to get your family involved in an effort to take him places before he has the inkling to go someplace himself. As if you just want to spend the time with him. He may get the hint but still he’ll probably be happy for the company. Then his license isn’t taken away but you are drastically reducing his driving time. If the family cannot do this you may look into my note posted above or pay someone to do this. If you do end up calling the DMV it is absolutely important you find ways to keep him active without the car because serious depression can occur. Even knowing that however safety is the primary concern here.

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