While it’d be ideal if everyone had the ability to drive themselves around forever safely, the unfortunate reality is that eventually, physical or mental limitations will catch up with most people as they age. Driving can seem like a routine task, but a lack of good cognition or physical flexibility can make driving safely tricky or virtually impossible for many senior motorists.
Though most people understand that there will come a day when they must hang up their car keys for good for the safety of themselves and others, helping a loved one recognize that their time has come can be an emotional and challenging conversation.
You may have concerns about an older family member or friend’s driving abilities, but observing their driving isn’t always possible. According to the National Institute on Aging, below are some common signs that an older person shouldn’t be on the road:
- Incidents increase: If your older loved one frequently mentions or complains about “near misses” on the road or has been involved in a handful of fender benders recently, this is likely a vital sign that they shouldn’t be driving. You might also observe new dents or scratches on their vehicle that they won’t or can’t explain.
- New traffic violations: While getting one traffic ticket isn’t necessarily a red flag, if your family member has two or more warnings or traffic violations within the last two years, it could be due to age-related driving issues. If your loved one complains about their rising insurance premiums, it may indicate they are no longer driving safely.
- Concerns from others: Often, if an older driver appears to be driving dangerously, it is their neighbors or friends who will notify you when you can’t be there to observe it yourself. You should take comments or concerns from others seriously and enlist their help for keeping an eye on your family member.
- New health issues: Unfortunately, many of the health issues that tend to affect you as you get older also tend to affect your driving ability. Any health issues with hearing, vision or movement can all impact a person’s driving skills. Asking for recommendations from your loved one’s doctor as to whether they need to modify when they drive or stop driving altogether can help clarify how to keep them safe.
- New driving anxiety: If your older loved one suddenly expresses new fear about driving at night or starts complaining about other drivers’ actions on the road, this could be indicative that they are having problems while driving.
There’s no one set age where an older person should stop driving. However, if your loved one starts to display any of the signs above, it may be time to step in and have a conversation about their safety.