Dilemma: my family think I shouldn't be driving

Katharine Whitehorn / 01 April 2016

A reader's family have made it clear that they think she is too old to drive, but she does not want to give up her independence.

Dilemma: my family think I'm too old to drive

My daughter who lives a couple of miles away and her very assertive husband have begun to hint that I am too old to drive and should give up my car. 

The implication, not exactly spelt out, is that I should turn it over to them, and let them drive me anywhere I need to go. As I have driven for more than 35 years and have never had an endorsement on my licence, I deeply resent the implication that I can’t drive myself. 

I often visit friends who live at a distance and, though I do live on a bus route, it would mean the end of my freedom. How can I put a stop to this nonsense?

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

There are tests you can take and courses you can go on, but I’m afraid it’s not just a question of how well you handle the car. 

Other factors definitely come into it with older people – memory, reaction times and, of course, sight and hearing. I was driving a year or two ago with an elderly relative who was directing me: “First right,” she said confidently – but she’d forgotten a turn-off before the road she was thinking of. 

Had she been driving, she might well have swerved back into the traffic and I might not be writing this now. And I had my heart in my mouth on another occasion when she was driving, and mistook one turn-off at a roundabout and tried to correct it… 

If you really think the couple are simply trying to exploit you and take over your car, you can announce that you’re selling it and see how they react; but I fear that, realistically, however expert we have been behind the wheel, there comes a time when we do have to give up.

Related: driving past your 70th birthday

Our readers say...

"I'm coming up to my 70th birthday and have been driving for 50 years, I know I don't drive as well as I used to. No one can do the things at 70 as well as when they were 20 whatever it is, so some sort of testing should be done at 70 yrs old. That said young drivers are, apparently, more likely to have an accident than any other age group."

"I drive all day and I see many frightening situations with older folk driving. They can be extremely dangerous. The most common fault is eyesight being poor and the inability to move their necks often just guessing if the road is clear. I think once you've retired you should have to undergo a manoeuvrability and eye sight test every 1 or 2 years. I'll be retired myself in 3/4 years, it wouldn't bother me to be tested periodically."

"This has always been a problem my mother gave up at 80. my Dad was in his early 80s used to dread going out as a passenger with him especially on Motorways. you see some older drivers filling up their cars and they look so doddery walking across the forecourt. would they react quick enough in a situation."

" I really hope that I'm told to quit before I become a danger on the road. There comes a time when you have to step down, not just for your own safety but for other people's. What's more important, someone's life or the ability to pop to the shops whenever you want?"

"Maybe they can see that you're not safe to be behind the wheel and are trying to help before you injure or kill someone or yourself."

"Wisdom comes with age...older people tend to drive more carefully not always though ...some young people drive carefully ..well its back to that old chestnut...age is attitude!"

"If you hand over your car ,how long before "oh mum, it's just not convenient to take you out at the moment " comments become the norm? Even if they do offer to take you about it can never be as convenient as your own car. Bite the bullet, sell the car and use the bus when it suits .Use the money you save on not having a car to pay for taxis when buses are not convenient, such as doing a big shop."

"Some people can't see that they are not driving at a safe standard. I witnessed this a few weeks ago one evening and her standard made me feel for my own life and I wasn't even in the car! It's not about age it is about safety and standards of driving."

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