When Should Elders Stop Driving?

For many elders and their loved ones, determining when they are no longer safe on the road can be a difficult and heart wrenching decision, but ignoring the issue can become dangerous.

Age related changes such in visual acuity, physical fitness and reflexes can hinder someone’s ability to continue to drive safely. Keeping tabs on the following things will help you know when it’s time for your loved one to turn in the keys.

Changes in vision and hearing- Loss in vision can make it harder for drivers to see essential traffic signs, lane lines on the road, as well as other drivers and pedestrians. Sensitivity to light at night can also make oncoming headlights dangerous. Loss of hearing can mean that typical signals used to alert drivers such as horns and sirens may go unnoticed.

Limitations in physical fitness- Loss of muscle strength and flexibility can make it difficult to steer, grip the steering wheel or move one’s head to check for traffic in the blind spot.

Slowed reflexes- Slower reflexes mean that it takes longer for a driver to react to traffic signals or unsuspected actions of other drivers and to gauge appropriate speeds.

Side effects of medication- Some medications may cause drowsiness or confusion and make it difficult to focus. This can affect judgment and driving skills.

Health Conditions- Mental and physical conditions are common among the older population, from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions can affect a driver’s agility and judgment while driving.

A growing number of older people are able to continue driving into advanced age. Older drivers can stay on the road longer by taking advantage of programs and services that can help make that possible.

Driver refresher course- Reviewing the rules of the road and getting behind the wheel with an instructor can reinforce safe driving practices.

License limitations- DMVs in all states issue restricted licenses which may be useful for older drivers. Some restrictions include:

  • Requirement to wear glasses or contact lenses while driving
  • No freeway driving
  • No nighttime driving
  • Adding an additional right side mirror to the vehicle
  • Driving only in particular areas
  • Restricted driving during certain times of the day
  • Wearing bioptic telescope lenses where a telescope is mounted on the lenses to increase acuity for drivers with vision problems.


The ability to drive is a huge factor in an older adult’s independence. You can help the elders in your life by being watchful for any potential warning signs of diminished ability and by helping them find programs and resources designed to help them stay behind the wheel as long as physically possible.

If you are outside of the greater Pennsylvania and Philadelphia area, contact a traffic defense attorney NJ for legal aid.

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