When Is It Time to Stop Driving? Things to Consider
Whether you should drive or not depends on your driving ability rather than your age. People of all ages have conditions that prevent them from driving safely, and older Americans are no exception.
Nevertheless, many seniors develop age-related conditions that can impact judgment and perception. Deciding when it is time to stop driving can be a difficult decision for seniors, as driving often provides a sense of independence and freedom. However, it is important to consider both personal safety and the safety of others when making this decision.
Conditions of concern for senior drivers
Seniors can gradually develop deficits in hearing, vision, and reaction time. Many older people refuse to drive at night because they can’t see where they’re going. Painfully bright LED headlights make matters even worse.
Hearing loss can also restrict the amount of information you receive while driving. Nevertheless, multiple studies have revealed that drivers with impaired hearing drive more cautiously and are more visually observant than their unimpaired counterparts.
Fortunately, most vision and hearing deficits are easily corrected with prescription lenses and state-of-the-art hearing aids. However, symptoms of certain health conditions can interfere with safe driving. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether it is time to stop driving:
- Physical abilities: As we age, our physical abilities may decline, which can affect our ability to drive safely. Consider whether you have any physical conditions or limitations that may impact your ability to drive, such as poor vision, arthritis, or difficulty reaching the pedals.
- Cognitive abilities: Driving requires cognitive skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, and the ability to pay attention. If you are experiencing memory loss, confusion, or difficulty with these skills, it may be time to stop driving.
- Driving record: Take a look at your driving record and consider whether you have been involved in any accidents or received any traffic tickets recently. If you have a history of reckless driving or difficulty following traffic laws, it may be time to stop driving.
- Transportation options: If you live in an area with good public transportation or have friends and family who can help you with transportation, it may be easier for you to stop driving.
If you are considering stopping driving, it is important to talk to your doctor or a trusted family member or friend about your concerns. They can help you make an informed decision and provide support during the transition.
It may also be helpful to consider taking a refresher driving course or seeking the guidance of an occupational therapist, who can provide recommendations for adaptive equipment or other resources to help you continue driving safely.
Assessing your safety on the road
Review the checklist below. Do any of the examples apply to you? If so, you may be at risk on the road. The more boxes you check off, the more likely you are to be involved in a serious accident.
- Getting lost in familiar neighborhoods
- Driving too slow, especially in the fast lane
- Not staying in your lane
- Running red lights or stop signs
- You can’t read the road signs
- Close calls, fender benders, hitting curbs or side-swiping other vehicles while parking
- Fearful and easily rattled on the road
- Loved ones want to talk about your driving
- Vehicles, bikes and pedestrians materialize out of nowhere, and you narrowly miss hitting them
- Stopping when there are no red lights or stop signs
- Poor reaction time
- Texting, eating, or talking on the phone while driving
- Other drivers are always honking at you
Keeping your skills sharp
Gary J. Kennedy is a geriatric psychiatrist and the director of the geriatric psychiatry division at New York City’s Montefiore Medical Center. He tells us that most seniors will wholeheartedly resist any attempts to separate them from their rides.
Dr. Kennedy believes that the litmus test of safe driving is whether loved ones let you drive with their kids in the car. If they refuse, it’s time to get proactive. Certain abilities decline with age, but the situation isn’t hopeless. Kennedy offered some suggestions on becoming a safer driver:
- Take a driving safety course at the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
- Pass the driving test at your state Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Don’t drive if you’ve been drinking or taking medication that makes you feel drowsy.
- Keep your headlights on during the day so that other drivers can see you coming.
- Keep plenty of space between you and the car ahead of you.
- If you are tailgated, get out of the way if possible.
- Start braking early when you know you’ll be stopping soon.
- Get hearing and vision tests and take corrective measures if necessary.
- Keep up with the flow of traffic. Slower does not automatically mean safer.
Kennedy added that the American Occupational Therapy Association can help seniors learn defensive driving skills. Many physical therapy centers will test your reaction time and teach you how to navigate an obstacle course.
The bottom line
In a 2012 survey of older drivers, almost 90 percent of the respondents said that losing a license would be a significant hardship. Because most people want to stay on the road for as long as possible, it’s easy to deny that any issues exist, even to yourself.
Regardless of your decision about driving, it’s essential to understand that safety should always be your top priority. Taking the time to properly assess your current situation and make an informed decision can help keep you and those around you safe while providing peace of mind.
You’ll find plenty of opportunities to expand your mind and your social group at Meadow Lakes. The beauty of our Life Plan Community is that life here never slows down. You’ll be as active as you wish, whether that’s intellectually, socially, or even physically.