The Driver’s License Issue

The driver’s license issue: It comes up at every dementia support group meeting I attend. So, when I was at DMV and picked up a brochure titled Potentially Unsafe Driver, I was excited to see it included a form that gives you a way to notify them when a driver’s “road-worthiness” needs reevaluated.

Technically, doctors (in California, anyway) are required to notify DMV when someone is diagnosed with dementia, but apparently, this doesn’t always happen automatically. Families sometimes have to give the doctor a little push. Thankfully, our doctor was on the ball, and my dad’s license was suspended last summer.

According to DMV’s website, if the dementia is “mild,” the driver is allowed to schedule a reevaluation which includes a written and behind-the-wheel test. If he passes the tests, his license can be reinstated, however, he will be required to return within the next year for another reevaluation.

But what if you know someone who doesn’t have a medical diagnosis yet? Often, families recognize that there’s a problem – that a loved-one should not be driving –  long before there’s an official diagnosis. People don’t like giving up their car keys – or the independence that comes with them – so this becomes a contentious issue and causes all sorts of strain on relationships.

That’s why this Potentially Unsafe Driver brochure caught my attention. It provides a way to do what needs to be done (get an unsafe driver off the road) while allowing you to preserve your relationship and avoid direct confrontation.

The actual form is titled “Reevaluation Request.” It has a checklist of driving problems and provides space for you to explain why the driver should be reevaluated. It does ask for your name but allows for a certain degree of anonymity. It can be printed from DMV’s website:

Don’t wait until something tragic forces the issue; do what you can now to avoid heartache later.

Good luck telling this - or any - guy he can't drive anymore!

Good luck telling this – or any – guy he can’t drive anymore!


4 responses to “The Driver’s License Issue

  1. Jim’s dad’s doctor had his driver’s license yanked, but his mom would have none of that: She took him to another town to take the test and he passed. But he soon lost it, and the Alzheimer’s had gotten worse, so it became moot.

    • Wow. From what I’ve heard, the wife is usually hugely relieved when someone else (a doctor and/or DMV) tells the husband he can’t drive anymore. I’m curious what could have been going through Jim’s mom’s mind that made her react so differently. Just goes to show how different everyone is.

  2. My 93 year old mother in law was driving and the light turned green so she proceeded forward, only the car in front of her did not. No physical injuries yet her car was totaled. She made the decision to not replace the vehicle which the family fully supported.

    We will need to have this difficult discussion soon with the loss of my father’s short term memory. He sometimes forgets how to find our home even though it is a familiar route. As one who drove fire trucks for a living, it is becoming far toooo dangerous for him to get behind the wheel for personal travel. Driving has become a danger to himself and others on the road.

    Thank you Susan for openly discussing these tough topics so honestly.

    • It’s a really tricky issue because it’s such a big part of independence and self-image – especially, it seems, for men.

      It’s tough, because you know that taking away his license is going to make him feel bad, and you don’t want that . . . But there’s a very real danger involved, and you can’t risk innocent people’s lives for the sake of “protecting Dad’s feelings.”

      My dad happens to be a very good test taker, and there’s a chance he could pass the reevaluation test and get his license back . . . And I’m not willing to take that chance, so I firmly refuse to take him to DMV. (And luckily, he hasn’t been able to convince anyone else to take him either. He keeps trying though!)

      Thanks for your kind words, Laura.

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