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Having a car not only offers flexibility to move around but also comforts people psychologically. This is more evident at an older age. Most of them have been driving for such a long time that imagining a life without a vehicle in their disposal is hard. Again, getting around without private transportation is much harder in rural areas than cities.

Giving up driving at an older age would mean losing that flexibility and independence. It would be a humbling experience and hard realization of their new reality. It would mean that they are not self-reliant anymore and this can affect self-esteem. According to a recent AAA study, 89% of surveyed drivers over the age of 65 stated that surrendering their driver licenses would be a huge problem.

On the other hand, it is important not to compromise driving safety while still keeping the keys to an auto. Unfortunately, older bodies are not as able anymore. Certain physical conditions and illnesses have to be taken into account and find ways to eliminate or reduce their effects. Self-policing, avoiding rush hours and nighttime driving can eliminate some of the risks.

However, medical help and outside assistance or interference may be required to deal with some of the issues. The fact is that it would be highly risky to drive when you are diagnosed with certain conditions. Some people may accept their new position easier than others. And in some cases friends, family members and medical practitioners may have to step in and have a talk about giving up driving.

These issues and solutions are discussed in details within the resources provided below.

General Older Driver Resources

Driving Safely while Aging Gracefully

AARP Driver Safety Tips

Safety Tips & Warning Signs for Older Drivers

National Institute on Aging: Older Drivers

How to Decide It Is Time to Give up Driving?

“The good news is that people who keep track of changes in their eyesight, physical fitness and reflexes may be able to adjust their driving habits so they stay safe on the road.” – Quote from the US Department of Transportation/NHTSA

Aging is a highly personal process and its effects on driving can vary widely. It may be time for a 70-year-old to give up driving privileges while a 90-year-old may be able to drive safely. Generally speaking, motorists of advanced age are more likely to get involved in automobile accidents and receive tickets for traffic related offenses. Moreover, their bodies tend to suffer more serious injuries in crashes and take longer to recover in comparison to younger motorists.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures, older drivers are more likely to suffer from accidents on the roads. Currently seniors account for less than 10% of the population. However, they are responsible for 14% of all traffic accident related deaths and 17% of all pedestrian fatalities. It is clear from these figures that not only driving becomes suspect but also risks involved with walking on the roads increases when you pass certain age.

There is no easier way of saying it. If you live long enough there will be a point you need to consider hanging the car keys. Or you need to consider if you need to have a conversation about it with an older relative. Here are some points to consider in the process of deciding if you are too old to drive.

Vision: Your eyesight naturally deteriorates with age. In addition, conditions like cataracts and glaucoma can worsen eyesight to a point that driving becomes highly dangerous. It is essential that people should increase the frequency of eye tests, as they get older.

Strength and Agility: There will be a point older people have to accept that they can no longer handle the wheel, brakes and maintain focus. If an older driver is no longer physically active and has trouble with basic tasks in and around the house it may be time to give up driving. Keeping an active lifestyle and exercising can help older drivers remain able a little longer.

Medications: Certain drugs are strong enough to influence driving abilities of a fully abled body. As people get older they take more and more medications and their frail bodies can be under the influence of them pretty easily. Seniors and their caregivers should always check the side effects of medicines they take to determine when they shouldn’t drive. If you are taking several douses of one of those medicines a day you should consider giving up driving while you are using it. Furthermore, cumulative effects of combination of medicines should be taken into account when looking into side effects.

Accidents: Suddenly starting to get into a few fender benders is a sign something isn’t right. This would be a good time to have a look at the root causes of those accidents to determine if it is time to take the car off the road completely. If not, you should consider finding ways of reducing accidents by self-policing and taking defensive driving courses. Otherwise, it is only matter of time that small crashes will turn into fatal collisions.

Dementia: Driving isn’t a good idea when someone suffers from any level of dementia. People with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia can suddenly lapse into an episode that driving isn’t worth the risk.

Confidence: One or combination of the above factors can make someone lose confidence. Some older drivers are no longer confident in their driving abilities but they are too proud to admit it. This may be a time someone else steps in and explain the risks. It would always be best if this decision is taken by the person himself/herself rather than taken on their behalf by someone else.

Coming to conclusion that you or your loved one shouldn’t drive anymore is only one part of the solutions. Next step is to adapt to the new reality. You should look at your transport alternatives moving forward. You should check the bus/train routes, elderly transport facilities and consider joining forces with neighbors and other friends to arrange private hire. You can join family members in their shopping and other outings too.

Danger Signs

Experts suggest looking at several signals to notice negative changes in the driving abilities of an elderly individual;

  1. The person might show indications of reduced vision, such as difficulties in reading road signs or unwillingness to drive at night.
  2. Be on the lookout for signs of dementia, such as getting lost on a familiar street or having trouble following navigational directions.
  3. Pay attention to verbal signals about slowed reflexes, such as comments about people or objects seeming to appear suddenly out of nowhere.
  4. Identify mistakes in driving; including hitting a curb, missing a turn, or doing anything that is risky to bystanders or people in the car.
  5. Finally, it may be time for the senior driver to relinquish the car keys if there is a recent history of involvement in multiple accidents.

Senior Driving Assessment Resources

One great thing about mature drivers is that they are good at assessing their driving and making adjustments. Quite a few of them choose to avoid rush hour traffic, driving at night and driving long hours in their automobiles. Other precautions like choosing the right car and getting comfortable in it helps as well. There are several ways of assessing older driver driving from professional assessments to self-assessments and getting the family involved. These links can help you further.

Professional Assessment

Drivers 65+: Driving Self-Assessment

Assessing Driving Skills

How to Have a Word about Senior Driving

When to Have Driving Talk with Elderly Parents

Is It Time for Grandma to Stop Driving

Illness & Ageing Related Driving Resources

Effects of ageing and some of the illnesses on driving can be managed to a degree. However, it is essential to understand what you can and cannot manage. If your illness causes seizures you need to think what would happen if one of those seizures started when you are driving on the highway. There are certain aspects and types of illnesses that may prevent you from driving. This is something you need to discuss with your physician and other professionals before making a decision. Below resources can help in recognising the symptoms and finding a solution even it means giving up keys. It is worth noting that most of the age and illness related problems are successfully managed by millions of drivers.

Alzheimer’s Association Dementia & Driving Resources

NHTSA Resources for Older Drivers with Illness

Vision Health Information from CDC

Driving Tips for Elderly Motorists (Infographic)

Study: Effects of Aging on Driving

Alternative Transport Resources for Elders

It doesn’t mean that you are housebound just because you are not driving anymore. This is an important point to take into consideration when making a decision on giving up. You should check all the alternatives carefully and establish workable alternative transport options. These links can help you find out more on those alternatives.

Transportation Options for Older Adults

National Center on Senior Transportation

Senior Transportation Services Networks

Beverly Foundation Volunteer Driver Programs

Mobility for Seniors in California

Improving Safety by Learning Defensive Driving

When you know your driving is slipping it may be time to brush up your knowledge, gain new perspective and learn defensive driving. This is a good way of reducing accidents and getting automobile insurance savings. Generally, it is not difficult to find a local defensive driving course and most states allow insurers offer discounts for older drivers who complete a defensive driving course.

Also, distracted driving becomes an even bigger problem when your reflex times are getting longer and longer. You should make sure that you don’t engage in activities that would distract you behind the steering wheel. Below links can help motorists who are looking to improve their driving.

National Safety Council Driver Training Centers

AARP Smart Driver Course Details

Online Defensive Driving Course

Article: Emotional & Physical Cost of Giving up Driving

Other Senior Driver Resources

Here are some other helpful links relating to driving, automobiles and seniors. You can find out about the statistical facts, insurance implications and technologies that can help you below.

Older Adult Drivers: Get the Facts

10 New Vehicle Technologies Helping Mature Drivers

Driving Safety & Older Adults Research Findings

National Council on Aging

Mature Driver Tips & Concerns (Alaska DMV)

Elderly motorists should avoid driving when they are not at their best, too. Driving can wait when they feel sleepy or sick or have been recently injured. Drivers should maintain both hands on the steering wheel in order to react to emergencies as fast as they can. Furthermore, senior drivers should always keep at least two-car length distance from a preceding car.

Loved ones can help elderly drivers reach to maximum effectiveness while driving by making sure that the seat, steering wheel, and mirrors are appropriately adjusted. Family and friends can also monitor their elderly loved one’s driving on a regular basis to assess their continued safety on the road.

Safe Driving Guide for Seniors
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