Image of hands on a steering wheel.

How To Know When It’s Time To Stop Driving

Although getting older doesn’t necessarily mean people can’t drive, some physical and mental deterioration is inevitable as we age. When these changes occur to older adults, driving can become a dangerous activity for some. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 20 older adults are killed and almost 700 are injured in automobile accidents each day. Age-related diseases such as dementia can increase the chances of driving incidents as well. From a safety standpoint, it’s important for senior drivers to regularly monitor their driving abilities, or have a loved one help. 

Health Conditions That May Affect Driving 

Age itself is not the single most important factor when determining driving ability. Oftentimes, there are age-related health conditions that make driving more dangerous due to their effects. Some health conditions that may affect driving ability include: 

  • Diabetes. 
  • Arthritis. 
  • Heart disease or stroke. 
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 
  • Parkinson’s disease. 
  • Vision or hearing problems. 
  • Conditions that require medications that impair reaction time or induce drowsiness. 

How To Implement Driving Restrictions

The health conditions above don’t necessarily mean staying off the roads altogether. It’s more a matter of driver performance related to the conditions above. For example, if you take a medication for anxiety that makes you drowsy at night, it may be best to avoid driving in the evenings while on this medication. Implementing some driving restrictions can help you adjust to the idea of driving less frequently while prioritizing safety. Recommended driving restrictions may include: 

  • Avoid driving during high-traffic areas, such as freeways, or high-traffic times of day. 
  • Don’t drive after dark. 
  • Turn off mobile phones and the radio which can create distractions. 
  • Avoid driving in inclement weather. 
  • Drive only in familiar places within a certain distance to home. 

Red Flags For Driving Ability 

Adjusting driving habits may be helpful for some people, but in some cases, driving may be an activity that’s simply too dangerous. If you or a loved one spots some of the following driving red flags, it may be time to stop driving: 

  • Bumping into curbs or other items when reversing or making right turns. 
  • Running stop signs or red lights. 
  • Delayed response time during unexpected driving situations. 
  • Lack of confidence when driving. 
  • Getting lost when driving a familiar route. 
  • Becoming easily distracted while driving, or not hearing horns or emergency vehicle sirens. 
  • Inability to stay in the proper traffic lane. 
  • Driving too slow or fast based on current traffic conditions. 
  • Getting bumps, scrapes or knicks on a vehicle when driving or in parking lots. 
  • Experiencing confusion at traffic signals. 
  • Hearing from family members, friends, or acquaintances that they are concerned about the seniors’ driving ability. 

Adjusting To Being Off The Road 

Driving can be a sensitive topic of conversation for many older adults. If you have a loved one who is demonstrating the red flags for driving listed above, it may be time to urge them to stop driving or to take their car keys away. It’s important to handle the conversation delicately and assure your loved one that there are many ways they can continue to enjoy their lives and that there are services available that can provide support, for example meal delivery services or public transportation. If your family is facing a difficult decision about a loved ones’ driving abilities, AARP offers a free online seminar called We Need To Talk that may help guide the conversation. 

Be Part Of A Supportive Community

Giving up driving doesn’t mean an end to the feeling of freedom and independence. Being a part of a supportive community with an active lifestyle can help you pursue your passions and develop new ones, in a safe environment that provides graduated care. From upscale amenities and lifestyle choices to outings and events, the Echo Lake lifestyle can help you live your best life while getting you where you need to go. Contact us today to learn more about Echo Lake’s programming and amenities.