Senior Driving: When Are You Too Old to Drive?

“Mom, Dad—maybe it’s time you stopped driving.” That’s probably one phrase no adult child ever wants to utter. We live in a driving culture—from the first Tin Lizzie to the new hybrids—we are a nation obsessed with motor vehicles. In urban environments many people drive rather than take public transportation. Even some seniors who live in long-term care facilities drive. Some might argue that suburban society would not exist without automobiles as many live in a world based on a car-orientated convenience, including drive-up ATMs and mail slots. But what happens when we see clues that a person can no longer safely operate a car?

The DMV doesn’t revoke licenses based on age, but on a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Many older adults have vision issues which DMV marks as restrictions on their licenses. Restricted licenses can also result from someone calling DMV and reporting an unsafe driver—it can be a family member, doctor, police officer or even a concerned citizen. Usually physical restrictions are in regard to times of day when driving is permissible, or physical areas of restriction (e.g., no freeway driving). For some tips on whether your driving is up to par, check out the AAA-sponsored senior drivers website, which does a good job of pointing out some common problems with driving at an advanced age. The online quiz also illuminates common risk factors and how to avoid potentially dangerous driving habits or behaviors. For those considering whether or not to speak up about a dangerous older driver the worries are twofold: one is taking away another person’s volition and the second is bearing the responsibility for others on the road possibly in danger. So when do you decide that a senior you know (or you yourself) may need (a) some restrictions on their license or (b) to stop driving altogether?