Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Driving when unmedicated

My son has schizophrenia and recently totaled his car. We feel it was his voices that put him into the car at 3:20am. Now of course he wants/needs another car. We said we would get one only if he goes back on meds. He feels the 2 issues are not related because the accident was caused by a dropped cigarette. He has no insight into his illness and negotiations never work because he cannot understand the reasoning behind them. Just have so many mixed feelings about the issue. Since the accident 2 months ago, he has not left his room.

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I think that’s a great idea. I wouldn’t get him another one until he does. If he wants one bad enough he will do it. I think this is a great carrot to dangle in front of him!


On meds for a certain agreed period of time with blood tests to make sure the meds are at a therapeutic level. Or no car. I agree with that.


I see 2 issues here.

First, it sounds like your son is psychotic and highly unstable. If he really needs to get somewhere, he should walk, bike, get an Uber, use public transport, etc.

Second, as @DianeR said, this is one of those critical opportunities you can use to force medication complaince. That’s what we did with our son. As it turned out, once our son was on a steady dose of medication and his brain started to clear, he realized he wasn’t comfortable with the task of driving. He realized he’s too paranoid. To us, that was a clear sign of him gaining insight.

As @Hereandhere said, please insist on not only med compliance, but a long period of stability and improvement before even entertaining the idea of him having access to a car.

In our experience, as sad as it feels to have to do this to our adult children, firmly dangling carrots has been the key for us so far. You have the upper hand here.

On a side note, being my son’s Representative Payee for his SSI has also been extremely helpful in allowing us to draw lines in the sand and getting him to do what he needs to do. I control every cent of his money. That too is sad, but it’s what we have to do. It’s all about dangling those carrots.


It is never recommended that someone drive while having positive symptoms of schizophrenia.

I am also my son’s Representative Payee and I let my him pay his own his bills, such as rent, utilities and his monthly credit card that he uses for food and any extras, such as a video game. Under my advise, he always pays his full credit card balance, which is great. His finances is one area that he can handle pretty well and I am grateful. I always buy him extra food when I am grocery shopping and maybe some clothing, as he would never buy any for himself because he doesn’t take much interest in his appearance, even though he still manages to stay handsome in a rough looking way. I always take him to the bank to get money orders for his monthly bills.


We asked our son’s original psychiatrist about his driving. We had learned at Family to Family the some of the other folks had family members with scz who did drive. My son’s original psychiatrist was very clear that if our son began getting moving violation tickets and getting into accidents, we must make it impossible for him to drive.

So far he only drives when he is able. Sometimes he won’t drive for weeks. We are fortunate that he does not drive when overwhelmed by his psychosis.


My son also has SZ and also was in a car accident when off medication. Thankfully noone was hurt. We decided that unless he was medicated, he could not drive. It’s part of the agreement we have with him - no meds, no car. If someone was hurt or killed by him while off his medication, it would be such a tragedy for everyone and it would be our fault because we knew he should not drive. It was so hard and until the accident we felt powerless to take away the car. After the accident, we took control (and many hospitalizations later, he’s med compliant for now). He tried to go off his injection and I took his car keys away. It’s a priviledge to drive and I could not live with myself if someone else was hurt. We already are hurt enough. Stay strong. It’s so hard!