Driver detection for elderly couple

Here’s the deal: my father has dementia and should not be driving. My mother is a nervous but okay driver. Either my father “forgets” he’s not supposed to drive or he’s a rebellious teenager now and slips behind the wheel despite his wife’s protests and children’s threats. One solution is, of course, playing the heavy and taking the car away. We’re trying now and it’s not easy.

Question: Is there any sort of technology that detects if a certain driver is NOT driving or a certain driver IS behind the wheel? I know there’s stuff to see if a driver is nodding off. A weight detection device on the driver’s seat which (dis)enables the starter? Pupil recognition? A device that makes sure there are two people in the car would be better than nothing. The car must be passenger-sensitive since the passenger air bag turns off if there’s no on there, right?


I will tell you what a doctor told my bros. and I about our Mother who was elderly. We are now the parent, the parent is now the child. You, not someone else are responsible to act that way. If that means having your father evaluated and removing his car and his license before he has an accident and seriously injures himself or someone else, you do it. When an older person’s judgment is impaired, just like a child, you cannot give that responsibility to some one else and hope for the best, The family members have to get together and make a unified decision in the best interest of all. The wishes of the elderly when this happens are unfortunately, secondary. YOU, do what’s best for them and everyone else who drives.

Would you hesitate taking the car away from your child if you thought they were in danger while driving ? Of course not ! You are not the heavy. You are acting responsibly.

What @dagosa said. It’s a very difficult situation, but you have to do it. Perhaps his doctor can be the one to deliver the news. There is no device that’ll do what you want.

The airbag passenger detection system in no way interfaces with the systems that allow the car to operate.

About the only thing I can think of that would still allow your mom to drive the car would be to have a shop install a hidden cutout switch and not tell your dad where it is.

My Father did not suffer from dementia my Mother did. She had voluntarily stopped driving a couple of years before she started showing symptoms. My near 90 year old father just started bumping into things (frequently). My oldest Brother borrowed my Father’s car and “forgot” to return it. You are facing some of the most difficult decisions you will ever have to make. I have been there. Your Father must be prevented from driving for his safety, your Mother’s safety, and everyone else’s safety. It sounds like your Mother realizes this. I’m thinking of a simple hidden ignition disable switch. These have been used for years as an anti theft device. I’m sure some of our forum experts will be familiar with this. It must be out of sight so when your Mother uses it your Father will not see this. I think they are usually under the dash. My Mother passed in Jan 1999 and my Father in Jan 2000. They were 88 and 94 so I consider them winners in the game of life. I wish you and your parents all the best.

I took my dad’s car home when he got too bad to drive. I told him I was fixing it.
It was a Gremlin. It needed fixing anyway, so he believed me for a while. Gremlins needed lots of fixing.

I agree with dagosa and this problem needs to be solved quickly. This is an issue that not only affects your father but every other motorist and pedestrian on the streets; or even on the side of the street.
The last thing anyone needs is a call from the PD stating that he’s been involved in a accident which has led to multiple injuries or fatalities. That could lead to all types of legal what-ifs from felony or misdemeanor driving charges to civil actions.

Our ex-fire chief here did a no-no some years back which led to an accident and some serious injuries. He lost everything he had in the ensuing lawsuit and moved to KS.

Installing a cutout switch as suggested by mountainbike is certainly an option and it would not be difficult to do.

What kind of car do they drive? Does it have an anti-theft or security light on the dash? Is it a car with a “smart key”, that is one with a chip or transponder built in to it? If so, you may be able to take a key and have a copy made but not programmed to the car. In that event, the car won’t recognize the key as valid and won’t allow the engine to run. Dad may just think that his car is broken and give up on his joyride for the day.

I like that idea.

Expect to have to do a sales job. I had two car keys made sans programming once, and I couldn’t get anybody to do it until I found an old fellow veteran who, when I explained what I was doing, made them for me. It violates the policies of the hardware stores. Don’t know why. In my case, I wanted something to keep in my change pocket to just unlock the door if I locked my keys in. A “coded” key costs $145. A key without the coding part was about $1.49.

My dad re-took his drivers test at 88 and passed. In Minnesota a doctor can cause a person to be re-evaluated and be re-tested. So if the state has no problem and issues the license, and the insurance company has no problem and continues insurance, that’s really all that is required. I have a healthy respect for those of us aging and losing driving privileges in some areas is akin to death.

This is not a fun situation for any family. We had to do this with my mother-in-law 10 years ago. Father-in-law had to hide the keys so she couldn’t sneak out. Eventually he had a kill switch installed that had to be pressed to start the car. It was hidden…and worked very well.

5 years after that…my father-in-law was getting dementia and we had to take the car away…that did NOT go over well. But it had to be done.

The other thing that needs to be looked into is how to get them around without a car when it comes to that. Here the city has a call on demand bus system that addresses some of these needs. A bigger step is an assisted living community with a shuttle bus.

In Minnesota and in most of the country, once you get outside of the metro areas, there are no buses. You can’t get to other towns, the airport, a resort, or hardly anyplace unless by taxi. And many small towns don’t even have taxi service. I understand dementia, blindness, etc. but lets not get crazy. We’re all heading there.

This is a case where a Google-type self-driving vehicle would come in VERY handy.

I don’t understand " I under stand dementia …etc., but let’s not go crazy. " Because we are all headed there, everyone should begin as they approach that time to make arrangements by giving power of attorney and decision making over to their next of kin and those they can trust. You don’ t wait until it happens; you prepare. It is easier for all involved… If parents thought about these issues while they were raising their kids, they might do a better job of raising them in the first place.

If we let the elderly decide them selves when they were incapable of driving, it would often be after the accident occurred. We have a state with a large number of elderly people and we all know that having people with diminished senses is a hazard on the highway. These decisions should be made by those capable of making them. You wouldn’t let a preteen or a child decide when they were capable of driving. The adults with their faculties make that decision. For that reason, assisted living closer to towns with public transportation and shuttle busses is the option. If not, the family needs to be willing take a bigger roll.

This is a VERY tough issue. If you take the car or keys or license away, the parent can take legal action against you. They are an adult and you cannot “steal” from them, the law is on their side. Most states allow you to contact the DMV about a parent’s license and ability to drive but you can’t just use the excuse that they are “old”. It won’t work. Often you may have to become a legal guardian. That’s a tough thing to prove and it won’t do much for your relationship with the parent. @dagosa has the right idea, use an intervention-like method with all the relatives putting on the pressure and hope it works. This is an issue that will only get worse as the baby boomers reach their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Its also an opportunity for Uber and similar products to provide cheap transport for non-drivers, IMHO.

We are starting the process with my wife’s parents now. Her father has dementia, and can’t drive long distances, especially if he has never been there before. He still has no problem driving to our house even though we live 45 minutes apart. They come to us and then we go places like their son’s house which is 5 hours away. My wife also goes to their house and takes them places at times. I broached the subject this weekend since we drove to the BILs house for Thanksgiving. Oh, and Mom doesn’t drive. She does not have dementia yet, and we hope that we can depend on her to stop him from driving is she thinks he can’t do it. I’ll let them make the decisions, but I will let them know what I think. Despite his impairment, he is and always has been a great guy. He deserves respect and help, but allowing people that are a danger to other drivers onto the road is a very bad idea.

My mother simply sold my father’s car out from under him. Then she hid HER car’s keys. At one point he attempted to drive his riding lawnmower downtown. It wasn’t pretty. 15 years later it was her turn. My sister, who still lived nearby, guaranteed Mom a ride anytime she needed one, IN HER OWN CAR. To my sisters credit, she kept up her end of the bargain. She also proceeded to wear out Mom’s car for all of her other driving.

I’m just saying that the idea that you can keep all impaired drivers off the road is non sense. The 21 year old under the influence of pot is impaired. The 35 year old truck driver who hasn’t slept for 30 hours is impaired. The 50 year old under pain medication is impaired. There are lots of impaired drivers out there. Then there are the folks that have a few beers or glasses of wine that don’t meet the legal definition. Or the guy or girl that just had a fight with their significant other. Or the guy that just lost his job or is a couple months behind on his mortgage. Some elderly are just a few more. You aren’t going to ever get them all off the road so practice defensive driving. I just detect some over-exuberance that it is their patriotic duty to take anyone off the road that is over 80 and slowing down a bit. Just the tip of the iceberg. We are or at least used to be a nation of laws and their are procedures to handle the problem whether some agree or not.

Not at all. What you’re reading is the result of a lot of painful experience gathered by many of those who have posted. When a child knows for a fact that one of their parents is incapable of driving, they then have a responsibility to act on that knowledge. I could not sleep if I hadn’t.