Determining when your elderly parents are no longer safe to drive can be a challenging decision. For many seniors, losing the ability to drive can also feel like a loss of independence. However, age-related changes such as vision or hearing loss, or reduced reaction times can impact a senior’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Identifying the warning signs and exploring alternate transportation options may help families have conversations and create a solution that is focused on keeping their loved one and others safe.
The average age seniors should stop driving varies for all individuals and depends more on their health and well-being than age. While older drivers are statistically safer than younger drivers, health conditions and other age-related factors can increase their risks of injury and death.
Consider the following factors when evaluating how your elderly loved one’s health and abilities may contribute to their safety when driving:
If your parent is experiencing changes with their vision, hearing, or memory, driving may put them and others at risk. The following signs may indicate that your parent is struggling to practice safe driving habits:
Changes in physical and mental health can also be risk factors for elderly drivers. Signs that a senior driver’s mental or physical health could make them unsafe behind the wheel include:
Each state has different driving laws for seniors. Some states require regular eye exams and others require senior citizens to take a driving test before renewing their license.
Many states require people 65 and older to renew their driver’s license in person rather than online or by mail. This enables licensing officials to look for signs of health conditions that could affect a senior’s driving ability. The elderly driver’s license renewal process for seniors may include the following:
Generally, elderly drivers must renew their license more frequently than younger people. In Missouri, for example, people age 70 and above are required to renew their driver’s license every three years. Some states also require doctor’s to report a dementia diagnosis to their state’s depart of motor vehicles (DMV).
To check the elderly driver’s license renewal regulations where you live, review AAA’s state driving laws guide.
In addition to state driving tests, you can check for potential warning signs by doing a home driving test. Be a passenger in your elderly parent’s car on a regular basis, during different times of the day, in varying traffic and weather conditions. Observe their driving habits and safety precautions including the following:
The NHTSA’s self-assessment for senior drivers can also be a helpful tool for you and your parent. You can review it together or separately to gain a better understanding of how your parent interprets their driving skills.
A good indicator of how your elderly parent is driving is to check their car for new scrapes and dents. You should also take note if they’ve received an increased number of traffic tickets and have been involved in more minor accidents or fender benders. The following signs of damage may offer evidence that your loved one’s ability to drive safely is deteriorating:
Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.
If you notice potential warning signs, but you aren’t completely sure if your parent is a safe driver, ask for a professional opinion. Consider a consultation with the following medical professionals:
Staying proactive in your parent’s driving journey can make a big difference. Here are some additional ways to keep your elderly parents – and other drivers – safe:
If you notice changes in your parents’ driving ability or overall health, talk to them. Use the following tips to help guide your conversations:
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Driving is often viewed as a symbol of independence. While some older adults voluntarily stop driving others may be more resistant, feeling as though they are losing autonomy. If you still find yourself having trouble taking the keys away, remind your parent that perhaps it’s better to be alive and able to enjoy life than to be driving and risk hurting themselves or someone else.
If your loved one is living with dementia and refuses to stop driving, the following tips for disabling their vehicle may help you keep them and others safe:
Have conversations, look for signs, plan ahead, and — if the time comes for you to take the keys away from your elderly parents — be prepared and commit to what’s best.
When should senior drivers hand over the keys?
The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.
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