Senior Driving Safety

  • What are some common driving issues for the elderly?

    Some common issues the elderly may have with driving include hearing difficulties, slower reaction times, vision issues, mental health issues, dementia, and problems with physical movements.

  • How do I talk to my elderly loved one about not driving?

    Many seniors view driving as a means to independence and are therefore resistant to any suggestions that they stop driving, even if they are posing a danger to others around them.

    When approaching your loved one about not driving anymore, it’s important to be calm and respectful and to explain your concerns about their driving without blame. Come up with alternate plans for getting around that will allow your loved one to retain their independence.

  • What alternatives to driving are there?

    Before approaching your loved one about their driving, it’s important to research alternative options so they can maintain their independence.

    These options may include community driving agencies, local carpool groups, car services, or family members that can take them wherever they need to be.

Driving Issues For The Elderly

As we age our vision, reaction time, and hearing loss can affect our driving ability.  We need to be vigilant about our health and honest about our weaknesses to preserve our driving rights and privileges.

Caregivers it is incumbent upon us to assess our loved one’s driving abilities.  We need to recognize when there is a natural decline in their abilities to drive safely and independently.

Have you as a senior driver been questioning your driving ability?  Have you heard concerns from relatives or friends?

  • Have you recently received a medical diagnosis known to impact driving ability.  These may include but are not limited to, diabetes, seizures, sleep disorders, stroke, dementia, vision loss.
  • Have you experienced a recent increase in near misses or minor crashes?
  • Have friends and/or family have suggested concerns about your driving?

Hearing Difficulties

As we age we often develop hearing loss.  It is of utmost importance to have your hearing evaluated on a regular basis.

  • Rule of thumb is once every 3 to 4 years.

When you drive make sure to keep the internal car noise at a minimum.  This will help you to hear sirens or other sounds that will alert you to an impending issue where you may need to pull to the side of the road.

Reaction Time

Our reaction time and reflexes tend to slow down as we age.  How quickly we respond to road related situations diminishes.  It isn’t always easy for us to concentrate on more than one thing at a time, which is a necessity when behind the wheel of a car.

There are certain strategies we can incorporate into our driving habits that may help us avoid accidents as we slow down.

  • Drive at less congested times avoiding local rush hours. If you must drive at high traffic times stay in the far-right lane.
  • Leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. This will allow you plenty of time to apply your breaks.

Vision Issues

There are a number of physical aliments that can affect driving.  Here are several concerns to be aware of.

  • Macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment can lead to vision difficulties which can cause problems for seniors when they drive.
  • Medications can affect vision.
  • Driving at night, in the rain, driving into the sunrise or sunset can cause driving issues.

Mental Health Issue and Dementia

Unfortunately, people with dementia and or Alzheimer’s will not recognize that it is unsafe for them to continue to drive.  It will be important for friends and family members to monitor their driving and respectfully decide when it is time to make other driving arrangements for them.

Mental health issue such as Bipolar, Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia and OCD may present issues for drivers as it relates to medication issues that can affect a person driving.

Physical Movement Issues

As we age we often find that it becomes more difficult to move and turn as easily as we once did.

  • Arthritis and muscle weaknesses can cause older people to have diffuiculty turning their heads, brake effectively and turn the wheel.

No More Driving: Having The Talk

It’s of vital importance that we have this conversation with our loved ones before any serious accidents occur.  It doesn’t have to be a difficult talk if we remember that to them this discussion is about their belief that they will losing their independence if they can no longer drive.

When you talk remember to:

  • Be respectful and calm.
  • Explain your concerns with regards to their driving without blame.
  • Have several alternative plans set up that will ensure their continued independence. This will require you to be aware of community driving agencies, local carpool groups, car services or family members who will be able to provide car transportation.  Let them know that you will do whatever it takes to make sure that they can get to anywhere they need or want to be.

For More Information Contact:

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
1-202-638-5944 (email)

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
1-888-327-4236 (toll-free)
1-800-424-9153 (TTY/toll-free) (email)