- 6 Signs It’s Time to Stop Driving
- Assessing Your Driving Ability
- Stop Signs for Older Drivers
- Adjusting to Life Without Driving
- 5 signs it’s time for your parents to stop driving
- How to know when to stop driving
- Older drivers – deciding when to stop driving
- Help with disabilities and driving
- How to get an assessment of your driving skills
- What to do if you decide to stop driving
- Travelling after giving up your licence
- Age Is Only One Factor in Determining Older Adult Driver Safety
- How to Determine If It Is Time for Your Loved One to Stop Driving
- Age and Driving
- When should elderly people stop driving?
- Can You Be “Too Old to Drive?”
- Warning Signs That Someone is Too Old to Drive:
- Resources for Elderly Drivers
- Ageism in the Auto Insurance Industry: How Age Can Impact How Much You Pay
- In The Zebra’s State of Auto Insurance Report we determined just how much age impacts what drivers pay for auto insurance:
- 8 Signs Your Elderly Parent Is No Longer Fit To Drive
- Seniors and Driving: A Guide
- Ways to Help a Senior Transition From Driving
- Transportation Options for Seniors Who No Longer Drive
- Top Ridesharing Options for Seniors
- Older Drivers – When Should You Stop Driving?
- What to do if your parent or spouse refuses to stop driving
- Don’t feel guilty
- 8 ways to stop an elderly person from driving
- Bottom line
6 Signs It’s Time to Stop Driving
Getting older doesn’t automatically mean that you shouldn’t be behind the wheel; however, regularly monitoring your driving abilities is an important part of maintaining senior health because there comes a point for nearly everyone when reflexes slow and vision deteriorates, making driving no longer safe for you and others on the road. This is especially true for people who have age-related health conditions, such as dementia.
Today, one in six American drivers is 65 and older, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. It’s estimated that the age group will grow to more than 40 million drivers by 2020. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that fatal crashes per mile traveled increase at about age 70 and peak at age 85 and older.
Assessing Your Driving Ability
Many seniors resist giving up their cars, says Gary J. Kennedy, MD, a geriatric psychiatrist, professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. In fact, even when loved ones voice concerns about their abilities behind the wheel, seniors often don’t want to give up the independence that a car symbolizes. A 2012 survey by AAA reported that almost 90 percent of senior drivers polled said losing their license would be problematic for their lives.
Some of the health conditions that may threaten a person’s ability to sit behind the wheel include:
- Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
- Problems with hearing or vision
- Parkinson’s disease
- Any conditions that require medications that could impair driving ability, such as anti-anxiety drugs, narcotics, and sleeping pills
But making a decision about driving isn’t so much disease-specific as it is about driving performance, Dr. Kennedy says. When Parkinson’s or arthritis causes stiffness that’s so severe it impairs reaction time, that’s a sign you should stop driving.
Related: Do You Have Inactivity Disease? Here’s How to Treat It
Another red flag is whether you’ve reached age 85. Around that time, even healthy people will experience slowed reaction time and trouble with visual acuity, Kennedy says. Hearing may also be an issue for some at that age.
For Kennedy, the deciding factor is whether you are allowed to drive with children in the car. If the answer is no, it’s time to give up driving.
Before that point, one or more of the following driving restrictions may be an alternative to completely giving up driving:
- Avoid driving at night and in bad weather
- Drive only in familiar places
- Drive only within a certain radius of home
- Stay off of expressways
- Limit distractions while driving by turning off the radio and other noises, avoiding conversations with people in the car, and not texting or using a cell phone.
Occupational therapists can help you drive more safely, as well. You can find one through the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Stop Signs for Older Drivers
There are some other clear indicators that it’s no longer safe to drive, Kennedy says. They include:
- Stopping at green lights or when there is no stop sign
- Getting confused by traffic signals
- Running stop signs or red lights
- Having accidents or side-swiping other cars when parking
- Getting lost and calling a family member for directions
- Hearing from friends and acquaintances who are concerned about a senior’s driving
When you do have concerns about your own or a loved one’s driving, one option is to request a driving evaluation, which can be performed at a rehabilitation center, driving school, or state licensing agency.
There are also physical therapy centers that can run tests to measure a person’s reaction time and vision, along with testing the ability to safely drive through an obstacle course, Kennedy says.
Adjusting to Life Without Driving
When older adults are adamant about not giving up their licenses, sometimes family members have to take action themselves by disabling the car or taking it away, Kennedy says.
When driving is no longer possible, you can reduce your need for transportation by taking advantage of delivery services for groceries, meals, and medications and even try at-home service providers, such as a hairdresser. You can also explore other options for transportation, including:
- Family and friends. Ask loved ones about setting aside time to drive you to the places you need to go.
- Eldercare providers. Look into senior health or eldercare services that provide transportation.
- Mass transit. If your city offers it, reacquaint yourself with the public bus or train system, which may be a fast and inexpensive form of transportation.
- Paratransit. Many communities offer paratransit, in which a driver will pick you up at home and take you where you need to go.
Making the transition from being an independent driver to being a passenger can be difficult. However, creating a network of alternative transportation arrangements to get you where you need to be can go a long way toward helping you adjust.
Marie Suszynski also contributed to this report.
5 signs it’s time for your parents to stop driving
“Age and medical fitness to drive should be viewed separately, however, while older minds may be just as sharp as younger ones, they often react more slowly.” Says Shah who also points out that on average, the human brain begins to slow down slightly beginning around age 30. “Getting older doesn’t have to result in cognitive decline if you exercise your mind. As you age, it takes your brain more time to process information, decide how to handle it and take action.” Every thought processing step takes longer, and in some cases so long that it can become dangerous while driving. So even for older drivers who appear to drive safely, there still can be a slowdown in the thought process simply because of their age.
“Driving is a complex, fast-paced activity. For senior drivers, reaction time depends on your ability to process information in the driving environment (sense), use that information to choose an action (decide) and react based on your decision (act).” Shah continues “Completing these three steps quickly requires a sharp mind and a fit and flexible body.”
Here are some ways to compensate for slower reaction times and help eliminate distractions. These are tips to review with parents but are actually important for all drivers to keep in mind.
1) Exercising your mind and body is at the top of the list.
2) Increase your distance when following cars which will allow more time to slow down or stop.
3) Minimize left turns. Drivers 65 plus are over-represented in crashes involving left-hand turns. AAA recommends making 3 right turns to avoid making a left or to use intersections with designated left-hand turn lanes which are actually much safer for drivers of all ages.
4) Remove all distractions inside the car. Doing things like adjusting radio volume, using a cellphone and interaction with passengers take away from the ability to focus on driving.
5) Stay away from congested and busy highways or roads. Many older drivers stay off the freeways and this can be a good thing. High-speed driving many times is very stressful.
One last tip according to Shah, “Review your medications. Older drivers should remember that prescription and over-the-counter medications can slow reflexes, blur vision and cause drowsiness or dizziness, causing additional driver distractions.” If this is a concern, you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist about making adjustments that may help with safer driving. Also, be sure to talk to your doctor about anti-inflammatory medications if you have serious muscle or joint impairments.
Talking to your parent’s doctor about your concerns may prove to be your best bet. Just as we always listened to anyone but our parents, the same holds true here: in many cases our parents will usually heed the advice of their doctors over ours.
Here is a link to the AAA Senior Driving website where you will find information for family members of a senior driver on how to have the conversation about giving up the keys. http://seniordriving.aaa.com/resources-family-friends/conversations-about-driving/
Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, documentarian and author Jeanette Pavini covers consumer and investigative news for numerous publications, radio and television. Jeanette is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettepavini.
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How to know when to stop driving
A police expert says that common mistakes by some older drivers include failing to give way and stay in lane, and misjudging time and distance when turning in front of other vehicles.
Professor Andrew Parkes, chief scientist at the Transport Research Laboratory, says there are two particular ‘lines of evidence’ that may indicate it is time to give up driving.
“One is how they themselves feel in the traffic environment; are they starting to feel more stressed or confused or irritated by actions of other drivers?
“The other is how they feel about the reactions of passengers in their vehicle. They will know whether their passengers are feeling comfortable, whether they are criticising their driving. It all starts to build a picture which will give early warning signs that something needs to be looked at in more detail.”
GEM advises older drivers: “Get someone to sit with you and rate you, if you trust them. Or use some of the good training centres that won’t take away your licence. Good examples are local authorities which usually operate appropriate schemes.”
Dr Charles Musselwhite, of Swansea University, added: “Rediscovering other forms of transport can be fun and exciting. The people who give up driving successfully are the people who plan the whole thing well in advance. It doesn’t need to mean that you are reducing your travelling.”
More information (including how to sign up for a Gem Driver Assessment) at www.stillsafetodrive.org.uk.
Older drivers – deciding when to stop driving
Driving if you have cataracts
If you have cataracts but still meet the eyesight standard for driving, you should avoid driving at night or into very bright sunlight.
Help with disabilities and driving
If driving is becoming difficult because of reduced mobility, you may be able to have your vehicle adapted. This could involve having a ramp or lift fitted to help you get in and out of your vehicle.
You can find out more under ‘Adapting your vehicle’ on this page:
- Motoring and transport
How to get an assessment of your driving skills
If you’re worried about your fitness to drive, talk to your GP or a health professional. You could also ask a driving instructor for an assessment to get an objective (and confidential) assessment of your driving skills.
What to do if you decide to stop driving
You should contact the DVA and tell them that you’re giving up your driving licence. If you have a medical condition, you’ll need to fill in a form and send it back to the DVA together with your licence.
- How to surrender your driving licence and return to driving at a later date
Travelling after giving up your licence
Giving up driving doesn’t need to mean the end of your independence. You could use public transport instead. As you get older, you’ll become eligible for free bus travel and concessions in Northern Ireland.
- Free bus travel and concessions
All throughout his adult life, driving was a form of therapy for Dave, making him feel confident, independent, and in control. But when Dave turned 68, the way he’d felt about driving started to change. He felt his reflexes slow, his mobility decline, and his vision deteriorate to the extent that it began affecting his ability to drive. Driving quickly went from being his favorite activity to one that caused him a great deal of anxiety. Before he knew it, his children were sitting him down and talking to him about the need for him to give up his license.
While Dave ended up giving up his license when he turned 72, it’s important to remember that all adults age differently and some may be more competent than others when it comes to driving. And while it’s hard to say what is the average age seniors stop driving at in the United States, we can look at other factors to help you to determine if it is no longer safe for your aging loved one to drive.
Age Is Only One Factor in Determining Older Adult Driver Safety
Age is certainly a factor in determining how safe it is for your aging loved one to drive, but it isn’t the whole picture. While it is true that aging affects motor skills, alertness, vision, and reflexes, it’s unfair to say that all aging adults are affected to the same extent, or that aging adults get into more car accidents than other demographics.
For example, while AAA reports that fatal crashes increase per mile traveled after the age of 75, with a more dramatic increase after the age of 80, it’s important to note that this isn’t because older adults are more likely to be involved in crashes. Rather, when they are involved in crashes, they have a higher chance or suffering severe medical complications or injury due to their age.
It’s also important to note that drivers over 65 have a high incidence of seatbelt use, are generally more discerning about the weather conditions they drive in, and have a much lower incidence of impaired driving. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 6% of drivers over the age of 75 involved in fatal crashes were under the influence of alcohol, compared to 28% of drivers between 21 and 24 years old. Therefore, we must be careful not to judge the safety of one’s driving solely based on their age.
How to Determine If It Is Time for Your Loved One to Stop Driving
Because all adults age differently, when your loved one should stop driving is completely unique to them. It’s quite possible that an 80-year-old in perfect health can drive safely without posing a threat to oneself or other drivers on the road, while a 60-year-old with impaired vision and a medical condition that affects their motor skills may indeed need to stop driving.
To help you determine whether or not you should be concerned about how safe it is for your loved one to be driving, it’s important to start by considering the following:
Be familiar with your state’s particular provisions for older drivers so that you can ensure your aging loved one is meeting the requirements to keep their license. In California, for instance, once drivers reach the age of 70, they must renew their licenses in person and perform an eye exam and written test every five years. Doctors in California also must report any medical conditions that could impact one’s driving, and civilians can confidentially report any unsafe drivers. These screening measures can act as a helpful gauge for loved ones as to whether or not it is safe for their aging parent or relative to drive on their own.
How mentally and physically healthy your aging loved one is will greatly determine how safe it is for them to drive. Talking to your loved one’s doctor (with your aging loved one present, of course) and getting their professional opinion about whether or not they think it is safe for the aging adult to drive is key. Be sure to specifically ask if your loved one is taking any medications that could impair their driving, as many aging adults are unaware that medication can affect their motor skills.
It’s also a good idea to observe your loved one’s driving first hand. Go for rides with them on a regular basis and pay close attention to their driving. Do they have difficulty staying in their lane? Are they using their blinkers? Are they able to turn their head enough to shoulder check? These are all things to look out for and can be useful to bring up in conversation with them if you think that it may not be safe for them to drive.
Chatting with your loved one about how driving feels for them will give you a better, more well-rounded idea of whether or not they should stop driving. It can be tough to know exactly how to talk to an elderly loved one about giving up their driver’s license, but if you have the support of their doctor and can identify specific problems with their driving that concern you, chances are better that they will be more receptive. Also be sure to present them with other transportation alternatives so that they know what options are available to them. For example, programs like Institute on Aging’s Home Care and Support Services offer escorted transportation for aging adults living independently. Social Day programs also typically provide transport to and from the centers, which proves that giving up driving doesn’t have to mean also giving up a social life.
While Dave, like many aging adults, found it difficult to give up the sense of freedom and independence that came with driving, he eventually came to terms with the fact that it was safer for him and for the other drivers on the road if he let someone else take the wheel. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing for our aging loved ones that they want for themselves—to live a long, safe, happy life.
At Institute on Aging, we are dedicated to helping aging adults maintain their independence and age with integrity. To find out if our programs and services could be a good fit for your aging loved one, contact us today.
Age and Driving
Help find alternatives. The person may be so used to driving that they have never considered alternatives. You can offer concrete help, such as researching transportation options or offering rides when possible.
Understand the difficulty of the transition. Your loved one may experience a profound sense of loss having given up the keys, and not being able to drive can lead to isolation and depression. Try to help with the transition as much as possible. If it is safe, try slowly transitioning the senior out of driving to give them time to adjust. For example, your loved one may begin the transition by no longer driving at night or on the freeways, or by using a shuttle service to specific appointments, such as the doctor’s.
When an older driver refuses to give up the keys
Sometimes an older driver must be stopped from driving over their objections. You can make an anonymous report to your local DMV or licensing authority. Alternatively, you can take away the person’s car keys, sell or disable the car, or enlist the local police to help.
When should elderly people stop driving?
RELATED: Feds making new rules for senior drivers
Burt, who has tested drivers in their 100s, also takes clients on two driving tests, once in their own neighborhoods and once with a manufactured detour thrown in to assess their problem-solving abilities.
“Sometimes performances vary from day to day,” Burt said.
The key is to monitor suspect drivers — including riding along as a passenger — and to be willing to address the issue with any driver who poses a potential risk.
“It’s not an easy conversation for young people to talk to their parents about when it’s time to stop driving … but it’s an important conversation to have, that’s for sure,” said Cain, the AAA spokeswoman, noting that an elderly driver has the same responsibilities as any other licensed driver.
Many families struggle with the issue of when an elderly person should stop driving because it signals a loss of independence, can pose real transportation problems in areas where mass transit is sketchy and can increase depression, experts say.
For Jim Bassett, driving represents freedom.
According to AARP, here are 10 signs it’s time to limit or stop driving:
Almost crashing, with frequent close calls.
Finding dents or scrapes on the car, or fences, mailboxes and garage doors at home.
Getting lost, especially in familiar locations.
Having trouble following traffic signals, road signs and pavement markings.
Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving foot from gas to brake pedals, confusing the two pedals.
Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps.
Experiencing road rage or causing other drivers to honk or complain.
Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving.
Having a hard time turning around to check the rear view while backing up or changing lanes.
Receiving multiple traffic tickets or warnings from law enforcement officers.
After an 84-year-old driver plowed through an elementary school lunchroom this week, killing an 8-year-old boy, his mother pressed lawmakers to bar the elderly from getting behind the wheel.
“We very much support a mandatory limit on the driving age for seniors,” Amanda Wesling wrote in a missive directed at driver Grace Keim, who authorities say was en route to a driving class at a senior citizen’s center Monday when she struck and killed 8-year-old Ryan Wesling.
The grieving mother’s plea raises new questions about how old is too old to drive, an issue states continue to grapple with in the wake of similar tragedies in recent years.
Driver’s licenses are issued at the state level, with each state having its own rules. While many states have enacted or are considering tougher testing for older drivers, they are weighing those changes against the rights of millions of older people to have the independence a license allows.
Among the incidents prompting calls for change:
At least two dozen states and Washington, D.C., have laws singling out older drivers for special attention, from required road tests to vision examinations, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In Connecticut, there is a legislative push to require automatic retesting of anyone over 75 who has had more than two wrecks in a calendar year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In New York, a pending measure would halve to two years the renewal period for anyone over 70.
“Different states are doing different things, but they’re addressing the issue,” said Anne Teigen, a research analyst for the NCSL. Still, she says, legislatures are trying to balance safety concerns against the unwavering fact that older Americans want to drive.
Illinois actually has some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on older drivers, joining New Hampshire in requiring a road test for renewals after age 75. Illinois also is among at least 15 states that have an accelerated renewal schedule for older drivers, requiring renewals every two years from ages 81 to 86, and then every year after that — each calling for a road test.
Advocacy groups for the elderly urge states not to overreact to each high-profile incident, noting that accidents happen in every age group and that taking away an older person’s license could rob them of their independence.
“The issue is not age; it has to do with the person’s physical and mental limitations, and that goes beyond age,” said Beverly Moore of Illinois’ AARP, which represents older Americans.
Older drivers, she says, still tend to be more cautious behind the wheel, and family members can be involved in helping decide when a driver should give up the keys.
Studies have shown that vision, reaction time and other driving skills can diminish as drivers age.
Statistics from the Insurance Institute show that older drivers generally are as safe as other age groups until they reach 75, when they tend to have more accidents. Drivers 85 and older are about as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as those ages 16 to 19, but they are more likely to die than others in car crashes because their bodies are frailer, the institute has said.
Keim’s license was up for renewal March 3, her 85th birthday, and her driving record shows no citations, according to state records. Investigators of the wreck are not divulging what caused her to drive up a dead-end drive and never stop, hurtling through Shiloh Elementary’s cafeteria, killing Ryan and injuring two schoolmates. Keim has not commented.
Can You Be “Too Old to Drive?”
Previously, we explored the larger subject of whether the government should implement driving tests at regular intervals to keep skills and knowledge of driving laws up to date.
See Part I: Should the Government Require Regular Driver’s Tests?
A critical piece of this question has to do with age, and whether the number of years since an individual studied driver’s education and learned the rules of the road has an impact on his or her current driving ability. Further, factors such as mental and physical ability – as they change with age – are part of these considerations.
According to the NHTSA, motor vehicle traffic crashes killed 5,560 people aged 65 and older and injured another 214,000 in 2012. “These older people made up 17 percent of all traffic fatalities and 9 percent of all people injured in traffic crashes during the year,” but accounted for 14 percent of the U.S. population.
While driver fatalities in this elder 65-and-over group have decreased in recent years, the population is increasingly living longer (with and despite physical ailments and disabilities due to aging). So not only are there more individuals driving with vision, hearing, cognitive and other physical impairment, the number of years since they learned to drive is expanding.
Driving offers people flexibility and mobility in their lives, and we certainly don’t think anyone should be unfairly deprived of that freedom. However, we have to wonder how aging affects driver and road safety, and consider what to do if you think someone is too old to drive.
States don’t set an age at which a person must stop driving; to do so would be discrimination because people of the same age often have quite different abilities based on a variety of factors such as illness and disease history, physical activity level, and mental acuity. However, many states have increased requirements for drivers of a certain age.
- In some, elderly drivers can’t renew their licenses by mail when they are over a certain age.
- In others, they must take a written or vision test every few years.
- And in several, drivers older than a certain age must renew their licenses more frequently than younger drivers.
Often the choice comes down to each driver or to family members tasked with their care. The AARP offers some guidelines for when to limit or stop driving.
To set an age at which a person must stop driving would be discrimination. Share on Twitter
Warning Signs That Someone is Too Old to Drive:
- Frequent close calls or near-misses when it comes to collisions
- Dents in the driver’s vehicle, garage, curb, mailbox or other objects they pass on a daily basis
- Getting lost in familiar locations
- Vision trouble
- Difficulty interpreting or following traffic signals, signs, or pavement markings
- Slow response times
- Confusing the gas and brake pedals
- Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway on- and off-ramps
- Road rage with aggressive displays, like honking
- Difficulty concentrating or becoming easily distracted while driving
- Difficulty turning to check blind spots or the rear view
- Multiple traffic tickets or warnings from law enforcement
The AARP encourages drivers (and loved ones) to consider ending or limiting driving or taking driver-improvement courses if just one of these items is present.
Resources for Elderly Drivers
The NHTSA offers these resources for communicating with parents, grandparents, or other loved ones you worry may be too old to drive:
- Talking with Older Drivers about Safe Driving
- Video Toolkit on Medical Conditions in Older Drivers
- Drive Well Toolkit: Promoting Older Driver Safety and Mobility in Your Community
Travel Tips for the Elderly and Disabled
If you’ve determined that you or someone you love has aged out of driving, public transportation and ridesharing services are great options for getting around.
Ageism in the Auto Insurance Industry: How Age Can Impact How Much You Pay
Car insurance companies base their rates on risk, and much of how they determine each driver’s risk is based on a profile of collected demographic data. They look at how often other drivers with your shared characteristics (age, gender, driving history) make claims, and they assume you’re likely to have the same claims rates. Some states forbid the use of certain types of demographic data (five states, for insurance, aren’t allowed to use gender). Age, however, has been shown to have a substantial impact on how experienced and skillful a driver is, and it’s not surprising that insurance companies use age as a factor in their rates.
In The Zebra’s State of Auto Insurance Report we determined just how much age impacts what drivers pay for auto insurance:
- Drivers between 16 and 19 unsurprisingly pay the most. The average cost to insure a driver between these ages in the U.S. is $4,957—almost five times what older ages pay.
- After 19, each birthday brings a lower rate: 50-59 year olds pay $84 less than 40-49 year olds, who pay $57 less than 30-39 year olds, who in turn pay $499 less than 20-29 year olds.
- At an average of $1,151 per year, drivers between the ages of 50-59 pay the least for their policies, all else being equal.
- However, once most drivers reach age 60, their rates begin to climb again, and after age 69 they make a big leap. Drivers 70 and over pay $205 more per year, on average, than their counterparts one decade younger.
Though older drivers are generally charged more for their policies, auto insurance companies aren’t necessarily content with how much they can charge these customers. Since insurance prices are regulated by the state, insurers must petition the state in which they operate (or all states in which they operate for national companies) when they want to raise rates on a certain demographic.
This summer, Progressive petitioned the state of Maine to raise rates for drivers over 65 in a move the Portland Press Herald calls “unprecedented.” In the paperwork, Progressive details that they’d like to be able to charge new customers who are 65 years old 6% more than they would have charged that same customer had they been 64. Nationally, most insurers don’t (and can’t, per regulations) charge customers more just because they’re older, but Progressive’s petition portends startling possibilities. As for why Progressive chose Maine, they didn’t say, but the Portland Press Herald speculates it could be because Maine had the highest percentage in the nation of drivers over 65 involved in fatal crashes during 2012 and 2013.
Would you ever confront a loved one whose driving has become a safety concern? Do you think age should be considered an auto insurance rating factor?
8 Signs Your Elderly Parent Is No Longer Fit To Drive
During our childhood, it was our parents who looked out for us. They provided food, shelter, care, and love. But as the years turn into decades, our parents become our responsibility. It is often up to family members to spot the signs that their elderly parents are no longer safe drivers. However, age alone should not be the sole determining factor when considering driving ability. Some 70-year-olds might be unsafe drivers, whereas some 90-year-olds could still be well capable of driving. Here are eight signs to look out for.
1. Hearing and/or Sight Loss
Hearing and visual aids can only do so much to help the elderly drive a vehicle.
A friend recently told me that her mom complained of trouble reading road signs. When my friend suggested that maybe it was time for her mom to give up her car, her mom said she just needed new glasses. There comes a time when the damage cannot be mitigated and the potential risks outweigh the benefits of driving. Help your elderly parent understand that giving up their driving privilege is for their own safety and that of other drivers on the road- and not a punishment.
2. Minor Dents in Your Parent’s Car
Minor dents are an indication that they are having small crashes that they may not even be noticing. I remember one older gentleman who I saw back out of his parking space and into the car behind him. He drove away as if he didn’t realize it had happened. These minor dents can be a harbinger of a more serious accident.
3. Easily Distracted
This can be noticed at home if they frequently start and abandon minor tasks. When driving, does your parent suddenly lose concentration? If they’re driving, they may be easily distracted by a conversation, daydreaming, changing the radio station, or adjusting the temperature controls. Suggest that they delegate tasks like changing the radio station or adjusting the temperature controls to a passenger, and keep their focus on the road if engaging in a conversation. If these precautionary measures don’t help, then they should strongly consider giving up driving.
4. Regular Alcohol Consumption
Compared to younger people, alcohol may affect the elderly differently. Have you noticed them having trouble with balance when walking? Be careful not to mistake this as a result of aging- it may be an indication of alcohol’s effect. If this is the case, they should not be driving. One drink can have a much greater effect in their older age, than in their younger years. A study conducted by Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D. and her team, “. . . found that despite the participants’ low BAC, just one serving of alcohol was enough to affect seniors’ driving abilities. They found no significant signs of impaired driving among the younger moderately intoxicated drivers.”
5. Slow Reaction Time
Do they run red lights or stop signs? Does your parent fail to brake when an animal runs out onto the road? If this happens, point out that next time it could be a child. This could be something that would warn them to be more careful, or consider giving up driving entirely. My friend whose mom has difficulty reading signs also mentioned to me that because her mom is generally weakened, she is concerned about her reaction time as well. While she hasn’t given up her car, it is currently in at my friend’s house. She shared with me that she was concerned that her mom would try to drive if the car was available.
6. Poor Driving Techniques
Is your parent hunched over the wheel? Do you catch him or her driving out of their lane? Does your parent drive abnormally slow or fast for conditions? Does he or she appear to be tense or a “white knuckle” driver? This might be an indication that your parent is also be nervous about driving and is trying very hard to avoid driving mistakes. These cues might appear minor, but left unaddressed can cause serious accidents down the road.
7. Multiple Tickets
Does it seem like the parking and speeding tickets are quickly adding up? A missed stop sign, not signaling when switching lanes, or forgetting to turn on their headlights can be a sign that it’s time for them to stop driving.
8. You’re Nervous Sitting in the Passenger Seat
If you don’t feel safe sitting next to them in the passenger seat then it’s imperative you let them know. It may be hard to put your finger on what exactly is making you nervous, but it is always better to be extra safe than risk an accident or tragedy. This is an important sign that should not be ignored.
If you pick up on any of these signs, it is important that you speak to your parent and suggest they stop driving. If they fail to understand the significance of these signs, consider taking them to the doctor for an expert opinion. This will help them understand why they should make the decision to stop driving. Also, be sure to explain to your parent that they are not giving up their independence by giving up their driving privileges. Instead, offer them alternatives like public transport, ride-sharing, or door-to-door services. Highlight the benefits of these alternatives- meeting new people, safety, and dependability. Remind them that they are not being punished and that this precaution is for their safety and those of other drivers.
I have a 96-year-old relative whose 99-year old friend bought a new car last year after my relative gave up his. I asked my relative what was the impetus for him to give up his car at age 95. His response was one that maybe we should all take to hear. He said, “Well, you see, I had a (mild) stroke and my limbs weren’t working as they should. You hate to give it up, but you have to use good sense. To drive in the public, I just wasn’t fit. I miss it, but I don’t think I should be driving. I’m getting too old to drive!”
Please feel free to check out the Bradley University site to find out more info.
Seniors and Driving: A Guide
However if he can’t, then it’s time to intervene. Start by talking. Ask open-ended questions to find out how he sees the issue. On average we’ll outlive our ability to drive by about ten years. Has he thought about how he will get around when he is no longer safe to drive? What are the alternatives to driving that he is comfortable with? If talking calmly and openly doesn’t work you may have to try other steps.
Medically unfit drivers can be reported to the licensing authority (i.e., department of motor vehicles). State’s differ in how they respond to reports, but it usually triggers official action that may compel him to make the change.
Ways to Help a Senior Transition From Driving
Giving up driving won’t be easy for the person in your care, both from a practical standpoint and an emotional one. No more driving can result in increased isolation and dependency. In some cases, it means that an older adult can no longer live on their own.
You can help support your loved one emotionally through this transition in several important ways:
- Listen. You may feel like changing the subject when he or she speaks wistfully about driving or their car, but resist the impulse, especially during the first few weeks after they stop driving. Your loved one is mourning a major loss, and talking about it will help them come to terms with their grief. Don’t attempt to jolly them out of their sad mood or find the silver lining in the situation. Instead, just listen.
- Share memories. Encourage your loved one to talk about some of their cherished driving memories, look at photos together and ask about their favorite driving experiences. Revisiting the role driving has played is their life will help them get through the grieving process.
- Watch for signs of depression. If he or she shows signs of melancholy or seems withdrawn or particularly irritable, these could be symptoms of depression. Other symptoms can include sleeplessness, fatigue, and loss of appetite or excessive eating. If you suspect that your loved one is depressed, consult their doctor.
- Be there. Make a point of being even more available than usual to your loved one during this transition period. Check in regularly and be sure to include them in family activities. Encourage them to keep up social contacts and offer to drive them when you can. If you live far away, check in frequently by phone and visit as often as possible.
Practical Steps to Help a Senior Stop Driving
Along with supporting an older loved one emotionally when they have to give up driving, you can also find practical ways to help them make the transition to being car-less.
- Learn about paratransit. Research local paratransit and other alternative transportation options, and accompany him the first few times he tries public transportation to make him feel more comfortable with it.
- Identify informal transportation options. Brainstorm possible transportation opportunities. Is there a neighbor or friend who would be willing to drive your loved one for a small fee or even no fee? Options that incorporate opportunities for social contacts are especially helpful, such as carpooling with other older adults to activities at the local senior center.
- Help him or her find activities that don’t involve driving. Your loved one may need help, especially at first, finding ways to occupy their time without a car. Suggest possible volunteer activities and other projects. Is there a school nearby that needs tutors, for example, or a hospital where they could read to sick children? Offer to help if he or she wants to launch a house project, like organizing their garage or planting a garden. Make sure they’re aware of local activities and resources for older adults in their area.
- Do some additional research to find information for your loved one. AAA offers advice for caregivers, as well as information about transportation resources around the country. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging also provides its own guide: Transportation Options for Older Adults. The American Public Transportation Association offers a directory of mass transportation resources around the country.
Wherever older adults are on the driving continuum — whether they’re still driving, driving with restrictions, or must give up driving altogether — you can play a valuable role. Your caring, active participation in their lives will reassure them that ceasing to drive doesn’t have to sentence them to isolation and boredom. Below are some steps you can take to help them transition to life after driving.
- Make it a habit to check in on them often, just to chat or share some news.
- Offer to drive them to the activities they enjoy — or help find someone else who can take them.
- See that they’re included in family outings, like their grandchildren’s school events or a day at the beach.
- Encourage them to try taking the bus on their next trip to the pharmacy, or to walk, if it isn’t too far away, and offer to go with them if you can.
- Urge them to ask for rides from friends, and to reciprocate in whatever way they can (preparing a meal, for example).
- Help them develop new routines and interests that don’t require driving, like gardening, walking, or swimming at the local pool.
- Your support and involvement in their lives will make giving up the car a far less lonely and frightening prospect.
Transportation Options for Seniors Who No Longer Drive
If your elderly loved one is no longer able to drive, chances are that he or she also needs the following forms of assistance:
- Help from family caregivers, friends or neighbors
- Help from paid caregivers
- Transportation as included in a long-term care community or adult day care center
For those not receiving these forms of assistance or care, there are other ways to get around, including:
- Local public transportation or subsidized transportation options designed specifically for elderly or disabled riders
- Ride-sharing options such as those highlighted below
Top Ridesharing Options for Seniors
Transportation is rapidly changing, not least because of the proliferation of new ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. In a short time, these convenient services have become crucial for getting around cities.
You might think these kinds of services have been a boon for seniors who are unable to drive. But many seniors either don’t have a smartphone or aren’t comfortable using it. Others may need cars with handicap accessibility or help getting to and from the door. Furthermore, ride-hailing services are really only available in cities, leaving people who live in more rural areas without these options.
Luckily, a variety of services have cropped up recently to help seniors, and their caregivers, address some of these challenges, including recent initiatives by industry leaders Uber and Lyft.
In 2015, ride-hailing behemoth Uber started a pilot program in Gainesville, Florida, to provide transportation for residents of two senior living communities. The company offered technology tutorials to help seniors get comfortable with using the app to request a ride. In 2016, Uber expanded the program to all seniors in Gainesville.
Though that program has yet to expand, Uber also offers some extra assistance for seniors with its Uber Assist program and has launched uberWAV in Toronto, giving riders a wheelchair-accessible option. On the other hand, the company has been criticized at times for not offering more services for people with disabilities and has been sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act to provide more access.
Learn more at Uber.com.
Like Uber, ridesharing giant Lyft is taking steps to improve its outreach for seniors and access for people with disabilities. Last fall, Lyft announced a slate of solutions for obstacles to seniors using its services, working with partners to take Lyft requests over the phone and to make it easier for groups working with seniors to requests rides on their behalf.
Lyft has also been working on making its service more accessible to people with disabilities, but, like Uber, its coverage is spotty and it has faced lawsuits over its ADA compliance. Lyft has a setting in its app to request a vehicle capable of accommodating wheelchairs, but in areas where Lyft doesn’t have such vehicles it recommends another service that may need to be booked 24 hours or more in advance.
Learn more at Lyft.com.
3. Go Go Grandparent
One service that’s popped up to help seniors manage Uber and Lyft is Go Go Grandparent, a call-in service that helps people who either don’t have or aren’t comfortable with smartphones to arrange rides. The service offers an extra measure of assurance by employing “professional grandchildren” to make sure the ride goes smoothly and features an option to alert the rider’s caregiver where their older loved one is going and who their driver is.
The service is largely automated but operators are available if necessary.
The company was founded in Los Angeles last year by Justin Boogaard and David Lung. Boogaard says he started the service just to help his own grandmother and took all calls himself. But his grandmother had an active social life, and before long he was taking calls for about 100 of her friends. It was affecting his sleep, and he realized he had to hire a staff.
Go Go Grandparent began charging for the service (19 cents per minute in addition to the standard Uber or Lyft fee), and now have accumulated tens of thousands of customers.
Learn more at GoGoGrandparent.com.
Another smaller service similar to Go Go Grandparent is Arrive. Arrive is a members-only service that dispatches Lyft and Uber rides to customers, many of whom do not have smartphones. Live operators provide an even higher level of service, giving drivers detailed descriptions of the riders before pickup.
“Most of what we’re doing is directing the driver when they’re at the address to find the rider,” says Arrive co-founder Amy Stice.
Hours of operation are limited to between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific time, so most of the company’s customers are still on the West Coast. But some East Coasters have been taking advantage of the service for evening activities like going to dinner, Stice says.
Stice, too, got the idea for the service when she was arranging Uber rides for her grandmother in Moraga, California. Now she’s providing the same service for between 100 and 200 others, half of whom don’t have cellphones at all.
“We’re doing exactly what I used to do for my grandmother,” Stice said. “We’re just asking for favors from the drivers to make it easier for the riders.”
Learn more at ArriveRides.com.
5. Liberty Mobility Now
In some of the country’s more rural areas, Liberty Mobility Now has emerged as a solution for basic transportation needs and a first- and last-mile solution for often spotty public transportation access.
“We’ve found that there’s this really intense demand for ridesharing and just improved transportation in rural areas,” says Tyler Bassinger, a spokesman for the company. “We go where people have expressed a high interest in this and then partner with a nonprofit or a government organization.”
Based in Lincoln, Nebraska, Liberty Mobility Now operates in seven states, employing its own fleet of drivers as well as partnering with whatever other transportation options are available to get people rides. The company’s goal isn’t to compete with Uber or Lyft but to fill in gaps, Bassinger said.
Liberty Mobility Now covers areas of Ohio, South Dakota, Colorado, Virginia, Missouri, is working on operating statewide in Nebraska and is about to launch in Corpus Christi, Texas. While they provide rides for anyone, well over half of their clientele is seniors.
The company provides its drivers training for ADA compliance and instructs them to go above and beyond with services like helping riders with their groceries.
Learn more at LibertyMobilityNow.com.
A company offering a comprehensive approach in the San Francisco area, SilverRide, was launched back in 2007, well before Uber or Lyft. Its services are even more comprehensive, sometimes accompanying seniors on their outings if desired or necessary.
Before even going anywhere, SilverRide drivers spend time with their clients and families to plan outings. They’ll take them on errands like doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping, but also to ballgames, museums, restaurants and parks, according to the company’s website.
When they pick up clients, the drivers go inside to help them to the car, and when they arrive at their destination, they walk the client inside as well.
Learn more at SilverRide.com.
Via — a carpooling service operating in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. — has been very popular with seniors in New York City. Seniors accounted for 27 percent of their riders late in 2015, according to an article in New York Magazine.
The service is simple: after booking a ride, a shared car picks up passengers at nearby street corners and they ride together. Uber and Lyft offer similar services that have received mixed reviews, but seniors in New York have raved about Via’s cheap prices and sense of community.
Learn more at RideWithVia.com.
Older Drivers – When Should You Stop Driving?
Do You Have Concerns About an Older Driver?
Are you worried about an older family member or friend driving? Sometimes, it can be hard for an older person to realize that he or she is no longer a safe driver. You might want to observe the person’s driving skills.
If it’s not possible to observe the older person driving, look out for these signs:
- Multiple vehicle crashes, “near misses,” and/or new dents in the car
- Two or more traffic tickets or warnings within the last 2 years; increases in car insurance premiums because of driving issues
- Comments from neighbors or friends about driving
- Anxiety about driving at night
- Health issues that might affect driving ability, including problems with vision, hearing, and/or movement
- Complaints about the speed, sudden lane changes, or actions of other drivers
- Recommendations from a doctor to modify driving habits or quit driving entirely
Having “The Talk” About Driving
Talking with an older person about his or her driving is often difficult. Here are some things that might help when having the talk.
- Be prepared. Learn about local services to help someone who can no longer drive. Identify the person’s transportation needs.
- Avoid confrontation. Use “I” messages rather than “You” messages. For example, say, “I am concerned about your safety when you are driving,” rather than, “You’re no longer a safe driver.”
- Stick to the issue. Discuss the driver’s skills, not his or her age.
- Focus on safety and maintaining independence. Be clear that the goal is for the older driver to continue the activities he or she currently enjoys while staying safe. Offer to help the person stay independent. For example, you might say, “I’ll help you figure out how to get where you want to go if driving isn’t possible.”
- Be positive and supportive. Recognize the importance of a driver’s license to the older person. Understand that he or she may become defensive, angry, hurt, or withdrawn. You might say: “I understand that this may be upsetting,” or “We’ll work together to find a solution.”
Is It Time to Give Up Driving?
We all age differently. For this reason, there is no way to set one age when everyone should stop driving. So, how do you know if you should stop? To help decide, ask yourself:
- Do other drivers often honk at me?
- Have I had some accidents, even if they were only “fender benders”?
- Do I get lost, even on roads I know?
- Do cars or people walking seem to appear out of nowhere?
- Do I get distracted while driving?
- Have family, friends, or my doctor said they’re worried about my driving?
- Am I driving less these days because I’m not as sure about my driving as I used to be?
- Do I have trouble staying in my lane?
- Do I have trouble moving my foot between the gas and the brake pedals, or do I sometimes confuse the two?
- Have I been pulled over by a police officer about my driving?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to talk with your doctor about driving or have a driving assessment.
How Will You Get Around?
Are you worried you won’t be able to do the things you want and need to do if you stop driving? Many people have this concern, but there may be more ways to get around than you think. For example, some areas provide free or low-cost bus or taxi services for older people. Some communities offer a carpool service or scheduled trips to the grocery store, mall, or doctor’s office. Religious and civic groups sometimes have volunteers who will drive you where you want to go.
Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you find services in your area. Call 1-800-677-1116, or go to www.eldercare.gov to find your nearest Area Agency on Aging.
You can also think about using a car service. Sound pricey? Don’t forget—it costs a lot to own a car. If you don’t have to make car payments or pay for insurance, maintenance, gas, oil, or other car expenses, then you may be able to afford to take taxis or other public transportation. You can also buy gas for friends or family members who give you rides.
More Safe Driving Tips
Before you leave home:
- Plan to drive on streets you know.
- Only drive to places that are easy to get to and close to home.
- Avoid risky spots like ramps and left turns.
- Add extra time for travel if you must drive when conditions are poor.
- Limit how much you drive at night.
- Don’t drive when you are stressed or tired.
While you are driving:
- Always wear your seat belt and make sure your passengers wear their seat belts, too.
- Wear your glasses and/or hearing aid, if you use them.
- Stay off your cell phone.
- Avoid distractions such as eating, listening to the radio, or chatting.
- Use your window defrosters to keep both the front and back windows clear.
For More Information About Driving
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus
For more information on health and aging, contact:
For more information on health and aging, contact:
Sign up for regular email alerts about new publications and find other information from the NIA.
What to do if your parent or spouse refuses to stop driving
Unsafe senior driving is a serious issue. When you see warning signs that your parent or spouse is no longer safe behind the wheel, it’s time to get them to stop driving.
But some older adults stubbornly refuse to give up the keys, no matter what. You might have already done everything you can think of, like:
- Holding repeated conversations to ask them to stop
- Showing proof that they’re no longer safe drivers
- Calling a family meeting so it’s not just coming from you
- Reassuring them that they’ll still be able to go out
Even after all that, they still refuse to give up their keys. Don’t despair, when everything else has failed, there are 8 more things you can do to stop an elderly person from driving.
Don’t feel guilty
These methods might make you feel like you’re betraying them or being the “bad guy.” But what you’re really doing is using last resort methods to protect their safety and the safety of other drivers and nearby pedestrians.
8 ways to stop an elderly person from driving
1. Anonymously report them to the DMV
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) allows people to report unsafe drivers, often anonymously. You don’t have to be a doctor, anyone can file a report.
The benefit is that your older adult won’t blame you for taking their license away. Instead, they’ll be angry with the DMV.
Each state’s DMV has different procedures. Typically when someone is reported as an unsafe driver, they’re called in for a driver’s license retest regardless of when their license expires. Contact your local DMV to find out what is needed in your state to request a retest.
If you don’t feel comfortable filing a DMV report, speak confidentially with their doctor and share your concerns. Ask the doctor to write a letter that you can take to the DMV.
2. Use Alzheimer’s or dementia forgetfulness to your advantage
Alzheimer’s or dementia can cause seniors to become irrational and stubborn about driving.
In these situations, an effective strategy is to remove the car and any reminders of driving. At the same time, creatively distract them from the topic until they forget about driving altogether.
This approach spares them from angry confrontations or getting depressed about not being allowed to drive.
3. Have a relative or close friend “borrow” the car
If your older adult’s car isn’t in the garage, they won’t be able to drive it. To keep them from getting suspicious, you could arrange for a relative or close friend to borrow the car.
For example, the relative could pretend that their own car is in the shop for major repairs. If it’s a young relative, they could say they need a car for school or a job. When the car is out of sight or unavailable for a good reason, your older adult may be more willing to give up driving.
You don’t have to actually give the car away, that’s just a cover story to get the car out of their sight. After that, it’s your decision to keep, sell, or give away the car.
4. Hide or “lose” the car keys
Another way to keep your older adult from driving is to hide the car keys or pretend they’re lost. It’s best to do this while they’re asleep so they won’t suspect that you’ve taken them.
If they ask you where the keys are, pretend that you have no idea. You could even help them look and after searching the house, declare the keys hopelessly lost. Say that you’ll get a new set, but it could take a while.
5. Take the car for repairs
Pretending that the car is having a problem is another effective method. Tell your older adult that the car is at the auto shop for repairs. This gets the car away from the house – similar to having a relative borrow it.
Your senior may ask why the car has been in the shop for so long. Be prepared to say something like:
- A repair part hasn’t arrived yet
- The repairs cost more than the car is worth
- The mechanic says the car can’t be fixed
6. Disable the car
A good way to prevent someone from driving is to disable their car. Do something simple like unplugging the battery or locking the steering wheel with a “Club.”
Even if they managed to get the keys, they still wouldn’t be able to drive a disabled car.
7. Sell the car
Selling their car is another way of making sure your older adult can no longer drive. Make up a story for why this is necessary. For example, you might say that a close relative needs money and this is the only way to help.
You don’t have to actually sell the car if you don’t want to, but this is another way to get it out of sight for a seemingly legitimate reason.
8. Hide your own car and car keys
If your car is still available, your older adult might try to take your keys and drive your car. If that’s happening, make sure to hide your own keys and park your car out of their sight.
Whenever you need to go out, you can say that a friend is giving you a ride or that you’re taking public transportation.
If your older adult refuses to stop driving, you might be forced to use these methods. They might seem extreme, but they’re effective.
Many seniors give up the fight when their driver’s license is revoked. Others will give up the fight after you use some of these creative ways to get rid of or disable their car.
It may take some time, so be prepared to stick with your story. The most important thing is that your older adult will be safely off the roads.
You might also like:
— 7 Warning Signs: How to Know When Your Parents Should Stop Driving
— 4 Tips to Get an Elderly Person to Stop Driving
— 3 Ways to Deal with Family in Denial About Seniors Needing Help
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Cheap Car Insurance
A version of this article was originally published on Sixty and Me
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