There comes a point in time when you have to step in and take the car keys from mom or dad. It feels like grounding a misbehaving teen and your parents feel hurt and humiliated by this.

They feel a loss of independence and a blow to their sense of dignity.

But just as you step in to be the parent regardless of how your child feels, you do the same for your parents to protect them, to protect you and to protect everyone else sharing the road with them.

Driving is a complex task; you need good vision, good hearing and sharp reflexes to be a safe driver. As we all get older these senses may start to falter.

So how do you know it’s time to make that painful decision?

1.       If mom gets lost while driving to the neighborhood grocery store that she always went to without any problems, time to take the car keys.

2.       If your dad who has kept a pristine credit profile all his life starts bouncing checks and forgets to pay the bills.

3.       Accidents; particularly the types that result from stepping on the gas instead of the brakes. Mom trying to back out of the parking lot but winds up crashing into the car parked in front of her.

4.       Any medical condition that impairs their level of alertness, their vision or alters their consciousness like epilepsy, poorly controlled diabetes or advance visual field narrowing as seen in glaucoma.

5.       If mom is on a prescription medication that impairs her level of alertness, her vision or alters her level of consciousness.

If any one of these five instances holds true for either one of your parents, it’s time to ground them and be the parent by taking away the keys to the car.

About the author

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Dr. Bola

Family physician. Works for the "man" by day, wife & mom 24/7.
Loves the work of translating "medicalese" to plain english.


    • I don’t blame your kids. I don’t ride well in the shotgun position myself. Better have me behind the wheel or in the back seat.

  • My husband just mentioned that about his ailing grandpa that was still driving at 92. He was saying that he should have stopped driving a long time ago. I think this is a very important topic and I’m glad that you, a doctor, are chiming in. It’s a safety issue, ultimately.

    • It is a safety issue for sure Meredith.

      Speaking of your granpa-in-law, I have had to be the bearer of bad news to some of my elderly patients. Their kids make me do because dad will not listen to them but will listen to his doctor.

  • These are really great tips that hopefully help people realize what’s in front of them with a parent who’s no longer able to drive but their reluctant to take away the keys. I’d rather take the keys away and have them be upset, then to lose them in an accident.

  • Great info! It is such a hard decision to make. You have to for their own good, and everyone else’s at times. But, they take it so hard :/ This is a great guide to go by.

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