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How Do You Know When To Stop Driving? 8 Signs To Look For

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Let’s face it, losing your driving privilege is one of the most difficult tasks that older drivers have to do. It means giving up some independence. It means admitting you are OLD.

But for your own safety, for your family members and loved ones and for the safety of others – giving away your precious car keys may be the only solution.

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), older drivers are more likely than younger ones to be involved in car accidents. In fact, 2019 data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that more than 20 older adults are killed and approximately 700 are injured in motor vehicle crashes each day.

But, how do you know when to stop driving? – Here are 8 warning signs that tell you it’s time to turn in your keys:

  1. Minor and/or near accidents (aka close calls)
  2. Losing your way in familiar roads
  3. Trouble seeing the road and/or signs
  4. Hard of hearing
  5. Getting mixed up (like mistaking the accelerator for the brake)
  6. Difficulty concentrating on driving
  7. Physical limitations
  8. Slow reaction time
  9. Medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, seizures, glaucoma, Macular degeneration, epilepsy and many more.

Any one of these 8 signs are red flags that the person is an unsafe driver to some degree.

If we are truthful with ourselves, we would admit that at least one or two of these “signs” has happened to us. But, it’s very scary to admit that.

After all, then that means that we may have to also admit that we shouldn’t be driving any more.

Here’s a fun little online test of reaction times.

If you can step back and admit that you have one or more of these signs then it’s time to consider alternative methods of transportation.

At the very least – it’s time to severely cut back on your driving time.

I myself cannot drive at night in the rain or bad weather. Night time driving is hard enough as it is, but in the rain? Forget it.

You see, my problem (like many older people) is that I can’t distinguish the road from the car when that car is approaching me – it’s just one big bright white light. Even with special anti-glare glasses.

So, what do I do?

I simply do not drive at night when I know it’s going to rain, or when it has been raining or if it’s currently raining.

If I absolutely have to go to an event, then I simply take an Uber or a Lyft – or a friend picks me up. It’s just not worth it to risk a possible accident or injury to myself or to someone else.

In addition to using ridesharing services, if you happen to live in an area that has ample public transportation, you can certainly take advantage of that.

But, if you do drive, there are some tools that you can use to make driving safer if you do continue driving.

  • car cane standing aids
  • seat belt buckle holders
  • leg lifter straps
  • easy seatbelt unbuckler
  • gas cap remover tool
  • spinner knobs for a steering wheel

You can read more about each of these auto products by clicking here.

At What Age Should You Stop Driving A Car?

Technically and legally, there is no set age when you should stop driving.

The law basically says that specific “medical conditions” are the only reason(s) that are acknowledged which would keep you from driving a vehicle.

What Medical Conditions Can Typically Stop You From Driving?

  • Any medical condition that has caused a decreased limitation in mobility such as a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, etc. Of course, the severity of the limitation in range of motion is taken into consideration.
  • Any health conditions that results in a decline in cognition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  • Any condition that can, at a moment’s notice, render you unsafe such as Epilepsy.
  • Any medical condition that has impaired your peripheral vision or overall vision in any way.
  • If you have had multiple heart attacks or mini strokes – your doctor may request that you give up driving.
  • If you have had problems with diabetes or sleep apnea – your doctor may also request that you not drive any longer.
  • There are multiple other medical conditions that could contribute to you becoming ineligible to drive and I would strongly recommend that you speak with your physician about this.

Many of these issues are normal changes as we all age.

It’s certainly a good idea to get a yearly physical and eye exam so that you can be aware of what changes are occurring in you.

One issue that arises is when elderly drivers are pulled over for traffic tickets.

Many states have different requirements for how old a driver must be to continue driving, and those requirements can change based on health conditions or other factors.

If an elderly person is ticketed, they may need to stop driving.

Alternatively, the elderly person’s doctor may need to provide documentation to the state that they are still able to drive safely.

At What Age Do Most Seniors Stop Driving?

The truth is that whether or not your driving skills are good or bad doesn’t really have much to do with age. It really has to do with your medical and cognitive condition.

I hear from many of my elderly friends something like “But I only drive to the grocery store.” Even a short drive can result in a serious accident.

A 64 year old person who is on multiple medications that cause him to have impaired reaction times can be more of a danger on the road than a healthy 82 year old individual.

That being said, the average age for an older person to stop driving is around 75 years old.

However, this number can really vary depending on your individual situation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older drivers (over age 75) have higher crash rates than middle-aged drivers (aged 35-54). AAA also reports that older drivers are more fragile and their fatality rates are 17 times higher than those aged 25-64.

If you have any concerns about your ability to drive, (or an elderly parent) it’s important to talk to your doctor.

They can help you make the decision that’s right for you.

When Should You Stop Driving At Night?

As we age, our vision changes and it becomes more difficult to see clearly.

This can be especially dangerous when driving, as we may not be able to see other cars in our blind spot.

An elderly person who is driving should be aware of this and take extra care when behind the wheel.

Many senior drivers avoid night time driving because of problems with vision. (Just like me!)

When behind the wheel, a driver’s eyesight is the most important tools you have. But by age 60, eyes need three times as much light to see as they did at age 20, so it’s much more difficult to see objects in the dark. If you have vision problems, driving at night can be particularly hazardous.

As I said earlier in this article, I myself do not drive at night any longer if the roads are wet and/or if it’s raining.

So, although I am technically not a senior (but will be soon) I have independently given up driving in those conditions because they are unsafe.

So, it’s my personal opinion that the decision to stop driving at night depends on if you are able to answer “Yes” to any of the following:

  1. If you have trouble seeing in the dark (be honest)
  2. If you have trouble with light and glare in the dark

Again, I do understand how difficult it is to give up any amount of driving but my experience as an Occupational Therapist working in rehabilitation units has shown me that all it takes is 1 second for a catastrophic event to occur that can change or end your life.

So, I’m asking you to be safe and sometimes that means making difficult changes in your life.

Note: If you want to go the extra mile and seek out an assessment of your current driving skills you can contact the AAA company.

They have a professional assessment service that may be of interest to you.

They say, “Because you want to be a safe driver as long as possible, consider getting a professional driving assessment. Your driving performance should be assessed regularly. Not only can this help you recognize and correct possible shortcomings, it also can result in a specialized drivers’ training plan to help you continue driving safely. Think about getting a professional driving assessment the same way you look at visiting your doctor for annual wellness checkups – as a smart way to identify and manage any physical or mental changes.

Should 70 Year Olds Drive?

Whether you are 70 years old or 90 years old – the age simply doesn’t matter. It’s your physical and cognitive status that determine whether or not you should be driving.

Elderly drivers are more likely to stop at a stop sign, but they may have trouble remembering other traffic laws or what some traffic signs mean.

This can be dangerous, as they may not be able to safely navigate intersections.

It may surprise you to learn that none of the states in the United States require a senior citizen to give up their car keys at a certain age.

When seniors should retake a driving test also differs among the states.

Further, each state has its own requirements for allowing senior citizens to continue driving.

Check out this table of information detailing the elderly driving laws by state in the USA for the scoop on what your state laws are for elderly drivers.

What Is The Maximum Age Limit For A Driving License?

Believe it or not, there is no “maximum age limit” for a driving license.

As long as you can pass your state’s requirements for renewing your driver’s license and of course also pass the vision test – you can get licensed to continue driving at any age.

Know that each state in the USA has a different set of requirements as you can see in the table that I mentioned earlier in this article.

In Conclusion

Seniors have the same rights as any other driver on the road, and should obey all road signs.

However, it is important to take into account their age and abilities when considering whether or not they should be driving.

Some states have stricter laws governing elderly drivers, while others leave it up to the driver’s family to make the decision. No matter what, it is crucial to be safe on the roads.

At the end of the day, the most important issue is to be safe – for yourself, your loved ones and others. So, be smart and work within your abilities and acknowledge your limitations.

Whether it’s yourself or an aging parent, it’s very important to be aware of how safe you truly are on the road while driving.

I have witnessed the end result of so many terrible accidents that could have easily been avoided (in my professional life and personal life) so I do speak from experience.

Please stay safe.

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