Our Blog

To Hand Over the Keys or Not? A Guide to Assessing Seniors’ Driving Potential

by Vanessa Valerio, January 26, 2020

As Baby Boomers continue to age, the number of senior drivers has significantly increased, In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 44 million individuals aged 65 and up were licensed drivers in the U.S. in 2017. However, licensed or not, many seniors are advancing to the age or struggling with medical issues that may inhibit their abilities to drive safely and cautiously. 

Have you – or a loved one you care for – been struggling with how to determine a senior’s ability to drive as he or she ages? You’re not alone. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that cognitive, visual or physical impairments combined with increased age is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes. 

Aging is not the only reason to stop driving; however, aging people are more likely to experience medical and physical conditions that can impact their ability to drive. As you consider whether or not if you – or a loved one – should continue driving, consider these common risk factors that may indicate it’s time to hand over the keys. 

What Conditions Affect A Senior’s Ability to Drive?

At any age, people experience cognitive, physical and mental that affect their ability to drive. As a senior – or a loved one caring for an aging parent or family member – it’s important to assess the severity of the following impairments. 

Hearing: Get your hearing checked. While hearing loss can occur at any age, a reduced ability to hear sirens, horns and even screeching tires, can negatively impact your ability to react and respond to situations on the road. 

  • Vision: Get your vision checked. Over time, vision is one of the most prominent changes that people who limit, reduce or stop driving experience. It’s common for seniors to experience conditions such as glaucoma or cataracts that can impair their vision overall – not just when driving. 
  • Medications: Certain medications can cause you to experience side effects that can impact driving as a senior. For example, even over-the-counter medications may make you more drowsy than usual or slow to respond quickly when driving. Evaluate the side effects and consult with your physician to determine if you – or an aging loved one – should be driving while taking prescription medications. 
  • Physical Diseases: If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a disease that causes physical impairments, it’s time to make a decision about your ability to drive safely. 

Is It Time to Stop Driving?

In addition to physical and mental impairments, there may also be signs that, as a senior, it’s time to stop driving. As a family member or caregiver, you may want to have the ‘talk’ with your loved one about limiting driving if you notice the following: 

  • Changes in behavior while driving, such as increased aggression, frustration or confusion
  • An inability to observe the area thoroughly while driving
  • Unknown damage to vehicles that may indicate a recent fender bender
  • Feeling tense before or after driving, as well exhaustion after driving may indicate a reluctance to drive
  • Increased rate of traffic tickets

Additional signs that it may be time to initiate a discussion about driving with a senior may include observations as: 

  • Discomfort while seated in the driver’s seat
  • Frequent tailgating
  • Drifting into other lanes
  • Slow reactions
  • Waiting too long to respond to driving cues or traffic lights
  • Forgetting to buckle up
  • Confusion when faced with road signs, traffic lights, and tests at the DMV

It’s never easy to have a difficult discussion with your loved one about his or her ability to drive safely, but safety is essential for not only seniors but also other drivers and passengers on the road. 

Finding the Support and Care You Need

A physical illness or disease can affect individuals at any stage of life and age, ultimately impacting their ability to drive. In some cases, the symptoms may be mild, but many disorders can also be life-threatening. The loneliness and stress that accompanies a medical condition can be even more stressful when a senior is unable to continue driving. 

It’s never easy to have a difficult discussion with your loved one about his or her ability to drive safely. Precaution is essential for not only senior citizens but also other drivers and passengers on the road. Regular checks assessing a driver’s capability to remain safe behind the wheel and open conversation about driving privileges can help create a safe environment for everyone.

Care Indeed is committed to providing you the support and in-home caregivers who understand your challenges and daily struggles at work and home. Learn more about how to get the support you need today.