8 Signs that It's Time to Stop Driving
The loss of driving skills is linked to the onset of old age. An older adult decreases their ability to react, doesn’t see as clearly, and may even suffer from diseases that cause reduced skills and warn that it’s time to stop driving.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as they age, many drivers avoid the road at night or during what they consider a challenging situation. In 2019, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration estimated about 30 million drivers aged 70 and older. So when does driving become difficult, and when should you decide to stop?
8 signs to consider whether to stop driving
If aging is compounded by age-related illnesses, everything related to vehicle use should have to be considered, warns Bright Focus Foundation in a report. For its part, the Traffic Safety Foundation refers to driving as a critical problem, specifically alluding to the number of people over 65 who are licensed and on medication.
While advanced age does not strictly speaking mean being a dangerous driver, it’s wise not to ignore skill or cognitive changes that put your own life and the lives of others at risk. The following are the most relevant signs that it’s time to stop driving.
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1. Diagnosed diseases
Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes treated with insulin stand out among the medical conditions that make it difficult to drive a vehicle. Such conditions impair coordination, hearing, reflexes, movement, orientation, and even judgment.
2. Vision disorders
Impaired vision impairs attention to traffic signs, affects the calculation of distance between cars, and also leads to pedestrian disregard. Older drivers need an annual checkup with an ophthalmologist.
3. Stress at the wheel
The health of older adults may deteriorate in stressful situations. Fast roads, darkness, rain, long trips, or crowded urban centers are scenarios that increase tensions.
Faced with this, the body secretes more cortisol, according to the Journal of Academic Integration in Psychology. A couple of solutions would be to plan routes or consider whether the benefits of driving prevail over anxiety.
4. Confusion and slow reaction
Some acts evidence the loss of reflexes. These would be stepping on the accelerator instead of the brake, driving too slowly, not staying in the lane, hesitating in traffic, or delaying maneuvers when surprised by pedestrians or cyclists.
It is possible to notice these things on your own, but if a companion witnesses such scenes, it would be more objective to ask how safe you feel with an elderly person behind the wheel. Driving schools or state licensing agencies can also be asked for a skills assessment.
5. Aggressiveness and moodiness on the road
A mood change for the worse while driving may be to be expected in heavy traffic. However, if aggression surfaces because you hear honking horns or traffic is not moving, it may be time to delegate driving. Likewise, if your actions on the road trigger complaints and calls for attention from other drivers, you should consider whether to stay behind the wheel.
6. Distraction and sleepiness
A lack of concentration or the urge to sleep while driving is a danger to you and others. The least severe of the cases may end in warnings or fines, but in the worst-case scenario, can be fatal.
7. Frequent accidents
It’s not only about getting into accidents. Saving yourself from them also counts. Your close circle should come clean if they have witnessed risky situations when traveling as passengers.
8. Your passengers feel afraid
If your relatives or friends don’t feel comfortable as passengers, take it as a sign to check what’s wrong with your driving. If someone feels insecure with an elderly person behind the wheel, they may have noticed flaws that the driver ignored.
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Possible risks of driving in old age
The World Health Organization (WHO) points out that the world exceeds one billion people whose age is 60 years or more. Although there is no average age to stop driving, the onset of aging brings with it dangers associated with this activity.
For example, joints and muscles stiffen, reducing flexibility and strength when driving. Something similar happens with those diagnosed with arthritis.
With the loss of abilities, the life of the driver, of the person accompanying him/her, and of those on the road is at risk. Sometimes it’s not easy for an older adult to give up his or her license. However, not driving does not mean being left without mobility options.
Family and friends are basic support and they show it by reserving some time to take them wherever they want to go. Public transportation is also a way to get around quickly and without spending a lot of money.
Remember to get regular checkups
Periodic medical checkups are important for seniors who drive. Eye and hearing checkups should not be neglected. And if you take any medications, it’s essential to be aware of the side effects.
Another precaution to maintain driving skills is to exercise, as it promotes strength and flexibility. Additionally, buying an insurance policy provides confidence when driving.
Once the person perceives a change in his or her skills in the vehicle, it’s time to consider giving up trips as a driver or restricting them to familiar places, during the day, and in company. Giving up driving is not easy, but working on it over time can make the transition easier.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Administración Federal de Carreteras. Estados Unidos. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics.cfm
- Buitriago L, Cordón L, Cortés L. Niveles de ansiedad y estrés en adultos mayores en condición de abandono familiar. Revista Integración Académica en Psicología. Vol. 9. Nº 25. 2021. https://integracion-academica.org/ https://integracion-academica.org/anteriores/27-volumen-6-numero-17-2018/203-niveles-de-ansiedad-y-estres-en-adultos-mayores-en-condicion-de-abandono-familiar
- Conductores mayores. Instituto de Seguros para la Seguridad en las Carreteras. Estados Unidos; 2021. https://www.iihs.org/topics/older-drivers
- Década del envejecimiento saludable. Organización Mundial de la salud. https://www.who.int/es/initiatives/decade-of-healthy-ageing
- Fundación para la Seguridad del Tráfico de la AAA. Estados Unidos. https://aaafoundation.org/
- La seguridad y el conductor adulto mayor. BrightFocus Foundation. https://www.brightfocus.org/sites/default/files/sp_safety_full_page_acc_2.pdf