(April 10, 2009) Hear the audio version

My grandfather gave up driving the day he found himself going the wrong way on a one-way street. Yay, Grandpa! Unfortunately, my father refused to stop driving voluntarily, even after three crashes and several near-misses in a six-month period. My mother and I pleaded with him. I said I would make sure they were able to get wherever they needed or wanted to go. But he wouldn’t listen.

Of course I knew driving meant more than transportation to my father, as it does to every 16-year-old itching to get his license. Driving means independence, freedom, responsibility, adult behavior – things Dad stubbornly clung to in spite of his age-related failings. Though I understood and sympathized with him, a car is a potential lethal weapon, one he clearly was no longer able to control responsibly.

So I turned him in.

That’s right. I reported my own father – who had taught me how to drive – to the DMV. I didn’t tell him. I just filled out a form I found online, a “Request for Driver Re-examination,” with boxes to check for specific examples of Dad’s behavior behind the wheel. I also described the crashes he never reported to his insurance company, the turns in front of oncoming cars, the rolling through stop signs and red lights. As an immediate family member I was able to request confidentiality. My hand shook as I signed the form.

The process took about three months – first an “interview” at one DMV office, then a behind-the-wheel examination at another. That was a very short test. Afterwards he was unhappy and I felt guilty, but no one was maimed or killed. My brother took the beat-up car. I hired a (much-younger) friend of Dad’s to take him out shopping every Saturday. They also go to lunch like old frat brothers. I started accompanying both of my parents to the doctor. Mom and I so appreciated that time together in the last six months of her life. And Dad – he actually thanks me now for driving. I tell him he’s very welcome.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.

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