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Signs It's Time to Stop Driving

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

There’s no legal age at which a senior citizen must stop driving. So how do you know when someone is at-risk? Read on to find out how changes to a loved ones health can affect their driving and what the next steps should be. Our "Do You Know The Warning Signs?" blog also breaks down health and wellness changes that may impact your loved one's driving abilities.

It’s important to remember that limiting or stopping driving is a complex and emotionally-charged discussion. Older drivers have a lifetime of driving experience behind them and deeply value the independence and mobility that driving provides.

Whether it’s the driving of a spouse, a parent, or another loved one, there may come a time in your life when you begin to question whether a loved one is still safe to drive. But how do you know when it’s time for your loved one to limit or stop driving altogether? There are many things to consider before broaching this sensitive topic. Is your loved one running stop signs or getting lost? Are they side-swiping other vehicles or stopping at green lights? If so, it may be time to hand over the keys…

Getting older doesn't automatically mean that someone shouldn’t be behind the wheel; however, regularly monitoring your loved one’s driving abilities is an important part of maintaining senior health. There comes a point for nearly everyone when reflexes slow and vision deteriorates, making driving no longer safe for them and others on the road. A driver who struggles to see or hear, regardless of age, will have difficulty identifying hazards, road signs and obstacles up ahead or around their vehicle. This is especially true for people who have age-related health conditions, such as dementia.

Assess Your Driving Ability

Many seniors resist giving up their cars, 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.

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 (glaucoma, cataracts)

  • Stroke

  • Parkinson's disease

  • Arthritis

  • Diabetes

  • Seizures

  • Other chronic issues

  • Any conditions that require medications that could impair driving ability, such as anti-anxiety drugs, narcotics, and sleeping pills

Making a decision about driving isn’t so much disease-specific as it is about driving performance. When Parkinson’s or arthritis causes stiffness that’s so severe it impairs reaction time, that’s a sign your loved one should stop driving.

Another red flag is whether your loved one has reached the age of 85. Around that time, even healthy individuals will experience slowed reaction time and trouble with visual acuity. Hearing may also be an issue for some at that age.

Stop Signs for Older Drivers

  • Failure to yield or stop when prompted by signs or traffic lights

  • Inability to recognize the right of way

  • Inability to keep track of speed limits

  • Forgetting to signal when turning or switching lanes

  • Routinely becoming lost (especially in familiar areas)

  • Inconsistent acceleration (erratic control of speeds)

  • Challenges with recognizing distance between vehicles and objects

  • Difficulty merging and changing lanes

  • Frequent “near-misses” in which accidents almost occurred

  • Road rage, anxiety and stress

  • 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