Older man from church shouldn't be driving
February 12, 2019 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Last night a fellow congregant at my UU church picked me up for a meeting. He's almost 80. He blew through a red light downtown and somehow everyone else reacted quickly and we didn't crash. It was terrifying and I have whiplash. I don't want him to be driving, and I'm trying to figure out what action to take.

This man and his wife are in my smallish church, so I see them a lot. I think his wife is a little younger. They both seem generally together or I wouldn't have accepted a ride from him. I found a different ride home last night. I feel a responsibility to take some action re his driving privileges, but I'm trying other options.

I don't want to jump right to cops/DMV if there are other approaches. But do I talk to his wife? To our minister? Something else?
posted by mermaidcafe to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Luckily you're part of an organization with a structure, so yes, I'd start with asking your minister's advice.

Social pressure is the only thing that might work - even if you wanted to there isn't much legally you'd be able to do. It's pretty difficult to even get a parent's license taken away.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2019 [25 favorites]

Absolutely call cops/DMV, asap. My company works with seniors and I almost guarantee you this man has been asked to give up driving repeatedly and by multiple family members, has steadfastly and angrily refused, and is now endangering his own life and that of others, no better than a drunk driver.

If it makes you feel better, call the DMV and ask them what their steps are when you report an unsafe elderly driver. Most likely they will have the driver evaluated and not just take their license away.

I know you feel bad for him but this is not fair to others and he will get into a more serious accident in the next year or two, it's just a matter of how soon and how badly he and others get hurt.
posted by rada at 8:05 AM on February 12, 2019 [20 favorites]

Seconding rada: get the DMV involved. Many states have ways to report unsafe drivers without involving kops. The DMV can examine his credentials and pull his license if needed. You don't need the approval of anyone, including the minister, to do that.

Be prepared for blowback from him and his family, though: denial, rivers in Egypt, etc.

I'm thankful to my mom's former primary care doctor, who didn't need much prompting to pull her license after she got behind the wheel while having a small stroke, and got into an accident, TWICE. She was not happy about it, but the alternative was far worse.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:12 AM on February 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

This man is a danger to himself and, more importantly, other innocent road users. Report him to the DMV, and ask for his insurance details. If you have whiplash, it'll really hurt over the next couple of days. Document it, see your doctor and claim for your injuries on the guy's insurance.
posted by essexjan at 9:00 AM on February 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

I encourage you to delay dealing with this for a couple of weeks until you are feeling better. Take care of yourself.

My brains were scrambled for a few weeks after I got whiplash and probably a mild concussion. I had some overly emotional conversations during this time that I now regret.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:04 AM on February 12, 2019 [9 favorites]

I'm surprised by people recommending getting the DMV involved - I know anecdotally that this would be useless in a number of states, and first hand that it's useless in CO or CA.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:13 AM on February 12, 2019

Thank you for being ready to speak up about this. My friend in high school was hit by an elderly man who should not have been driving. She suffered injuries to her back that left her in a wheelchair for years.

I noticed a previous question from you indicated your location. On this page there's a link to a form to request that the DMV of your state do a medical evaluation of a driver. I'm not sure if that's something you'd want to do, but you could start by calling the number at the bottom of the form to request more information.

I agree that asking your minister's advice is a reasonable first step.
posted by beandip at 9:59 AM on February 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

What was the driver's response? Was it "OMG what did I just do, I'm so sorry, are you guys ok???" Or was it "Zippity-doo-dah, what are all y'all screaming about?" If the former, I agree you can try talking to his minister or his wife or maybe even him, about driving safety. But in my experience -- and I have dealt with this a LOT -- no amount of social pressure will convince someone with no insight to stop driving. As rada says, it's possible his family has been pleading with him for years, his kids won't let him pick the grandkids up from school, his wife made him promise to drive only to the store/church and back and never on the interstate. Or maybe this was a one-off, but honestly, it's very lucky that the other driver wasn't a nervous new-minted teen driver, or the roads weren't too slick for people to stop, or there wasn't a pedestrian or cyclist around.

If you are still living in the state beandip references, I used to live there too and I promise that the DMV takes reports of unsafe driving seriously. I am not sure if you can retain confidentiality as you're not a family member, but honestly, this is one of those things I would be ok with breaking confidentiality about.
posted by basalganglia at 10:36 AM on February 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Why would any confidentiality attach? OP is not the guy's doctor or lawyer or minister, and they were a witness to the guy's committing a serious traffic infraction and being a danger to the public. If anything, OP has a duty to speak up, if they can find someone who will listen and take appropriate action. OP, I tip my hat to you trying to solve this problem, and I hope you can find the right authority.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:47 AM on February 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Why would any confidentiality attach?

People may be referring to the fact that most states DMV's allow residents to report unsafe elderly drivers anonymously. Specifically to OP's state, the DMV says:

State law prohibits DMV from releasing information on the source or reason for the report submitted by a relative or medical professional treating the driver. Information on the source of other reports may be released, if requested (link).

Personally, I would consider this a classic case of the missing stair AND a public safety issue, and report regardless.
posted by rada at 11:07 AM on February 12, 2019

rada: "State law prohibits DMV from releasing information on the source or reason for the report submitted by a relative or medical professional treating the driver. Information on the source of other reports may be released, if requested (link)."

That language does seem to specifically state that the DMV will only preserve anonymity in the case of a relative or medical professional. I.e. the DMV would tell the driver that OP reported him, if he asked.

That said, there's nothing to prevent OP from submitting that form and leaving all the 'requester' information blank. I would hope that if the form is sufficiently detailed and convincing, the DMV would investigate even if OP doesn't include her identity.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:18 AM on February 12, 2019

I think a physician has to be involved in taking someone's driver's license away, and then they're just taking the license and the man may continue driving, if his judgment is impaired. I think his family will have to be involved if he's determined to drive and needs to be deprived of access to the car. I don't think you can accomplish any of this as an interested friend.
posted by Smearcase at 11:33 AM on February 12, 2019

ah, thanks for clarifying. I also think that OP doesn't need to worry about the guy finding out. He has no right to expect anyone not to interfere. In fact, there's no need to tread lightly: these people both need a big come to Jesus. The first call might need to be to his wife. "Hilda, I'm gravely concerned after what I experienced in the car the other night. Will you help protect yourself and Edgar and our community by convincing Edgar that he needs to stop driving? How would you feel if the next intersection he blows through has a family in it?" (but by all means try to get the authorities involved as well, and hopefully she'll cooperate with them.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:37 PM on February 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


I talked to my minister today. She'd heard what happened last night because her husband had given me a ride home, and he was also trying to figure out what to do.

She looked up information about mature drivers' programs at DMV and said they could do assessments. She said she needed to look up more specific programs like that.

The gist of her answer was to go to him first and tell him how scared I was. I emailed him. He said nothing like that had happened before and that the combination of night/ lights/rain/talking to me had thrown him. He did say that he will call the DMV to talk about options and resources. I also told him the minister was working on some ideas for him, and he was willing to follow up with her.

It was a much softer approach than what I was thinking and what many have suggested. But the minister and her husband (also a minister) are better equipped to work through situations like this, and I'm glad I brought it to their attention.
posted by mermaidcafe at 12:43 PM on February 12, 2019 [27 favorites]

That's a great update, mermaidcafe! I'm glad he's willing to follow up with the minister and the DMV.

Forgot to say in my previous answer -- and this might be helpful for you/your minister or anyone else in the same situation -- the Association of Occupational Therapists maintains a database of driving specialists. There are a mix of on-the-road and online assessments. Highly recommend.
posted by basalganglia at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2019

Search for a "gerontology assessment center" near you and suggest your friend set up an appointment there. Maybe it was just a very scary one off of rain, night, talking etc. (fwiw, I am nowhere near that old but ran a red light a while ago through a similar combination of: low sun in my eyes, lost, trying to listen to my passenger, tired, etc.) Or, maybe he really shouldn't be on the road. Either way, get a neutral third party who are professionals who can either set his mind at ease that it really was a mistake, or that he needs to make some serious changes in his life. And, depending where they are and how far they go, introduce them to Uber or Lyft for regular use or just for those times that he might choose not to drive (at night, bad weather, etc.)
posted by Gotanda at 4:44 PM on February 12, 2019

First, I'm glad you're okay. Second, I'm so glad your minister had the sense to recommend you talk to the man directly. And third, I'm shocked by the harshness of the other responses you received.

Going around / over this man, reporting him to the DMV, resorting to social shaming within a closed community ... those ideas come at the expense of a man's dignity, self-agency, and honor. Plus, they are unlikely to be effective – and they'll cost the man self-esteem and position in community. And worst –– they're in response to his intended kindness toward you.

Even as a friend, you do not likely know the ins and outs of this man's medical and age-related circumstances. Luckily, you are (mostly) okay –– and so is he. But every action you take to constrict his rights for your potential safety needs to balance against the potential impact on the man's life. In other words: you get the man's license taken away. What then? Are you offering to bring him places? How is he limited; how does the rest of his life play out? You owe to HIM the kindness of a direct conversation. I'd follow up the email with an in-person offer of some support you can provide to him, in proportion to the support he intended to provide you.
posted by mr. remy at 8:00 AM on February 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

I know this goes against the trend, but my first thought on reading this was that you don't know for sure if this has anything to do with his age. It is a possibility to consider, but running a red light by mistake is not limited to old people or people who are losing their ability to drive. It should certainly scare him - it would be good if this encourages him to drive less at night or in the rain, for example. But as a rule it is not the case that society has decided the penalty for running a red light is to lose your license.

His response is the right response, but you don't really know if he's made that response a dozen times before. I would make my next step (or the minister's next step) to either get a friendly/impartial assessment or to check with other people who've driven with him more and see whether he seems to be generally safe, separate from this one incident.
posted by Lady Li at 12:02 PM on February 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

I agree with Lady Li. I live in a college town and saw a student run a stop sign and hit a pedestrian. Another student zoomed out of a curbside parking space without looking, really fast, and hit my car. If a pedestrian had been there, they would have been killed. Any driver who commits a serious traffic offense should be evaluated, perhaps, but ageism is something to be careful about.
posted by nantucket at 2:36 AM on February 19, 2019

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