HomeHealth TopicSenior Health

At What Age Should Seniors Stop Driving and What Are the Signs?

Maria Robinson, MD, MBAPatricia Pinto-Garcia, MD, MPH
Published on November 19, 2021

Key takeaways:

  • Age-related changes to your mind and body can make it harder to drive, but there are steps you can take to help delay or prevent them. 

  • Everyone ages differently, and there is no specific age when people should stop driving.

  • There are different warning signs that can mean it’s time to evaluate whether someone should stop, or limit, their driving. 

Table of contents

Senior man with oxygen tubes in his nose sitting in a recliner smiling and laughing on a video call.
Instants/iStock via Getty Images

Losing the ability to drive can be challenging for anyone. For many people, driving isn’t just about independence — it’s also about the ability to work, socialize, and care for their families. 

There are many reasons someone may need to stop — or limit — their driving. Having certain medical conditions or taking certain medications are examples. Getting older is one of the most common reasons, though, especially as the number of people aged 65 and older continues to increase.

Here, we’ll review how age and other conditions can affect driving ability. We’ll also cover signs that someone may need to stop driving, and how to have that difficult conversation with a loved one. 

What health issues can make it riskier to drive?

Many health conditions can impact your ability to drive. Keep in mind that having these conditions doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be driving. But it may be a good time to evaluate your driving capability to see if any adjustments or limitations would help keep you safe. 

This is something your healthcare provider may also discuss with you. Many states require providers to notify the driver licensing agency if someone has certain medical conditions. 

Here are some examples of health issues that could make it harder or riskier to drive:

How does aging affect your driving?

As you get older, it’s common and normal to experience some age-related changes to your mind and body that could make it harder to drive, such as: 

  • Visual changes, like difficulty seeing at night or having a hard time reading road signs

  • Decreased coordination and flexibility

  • Slower reaction times and reflexes

  • Loss of hearing

 Experiencing any of these changes doesn’t mean you have to give up driving. You may just want to change a part of your routine. For example, avoid driving at night if you find it hard to see.

Tips for safe driving as you age

There are steps you can take to help prevent or delay some age-related changes that affect your driving. Keeping up with these may help keep you driving safely for a longer period of time: 

  • Get regular physical exams, including an annual eye exam if you’re over the age of 60.

  • Make sure your glasses’ or contacts’ prescription is always up to date.

  • Stay physically active and maintain (or improve) your flexibility and range of motion by doing some simple exercises at home.

  • Take a driver refresher course, which can be done online or in person. Your insurance company may even offer a lower rate after finishing it. 

  • Keep your brain active and engaged with new challenges, such as learning a new hobby or playing concentration games.

When should you stop driving due to age?

Everyone ages differently, so there isn’t one specific age when people should stop driving. But statistics have shown that older drivers are at higher risk for worse outcomes when it comes to car accidents:

  • Older drivers (especially those over 75) are more likely to get injured or die in a car accident compared to middle-aged drivers. This may be because older adults may be physically weaker or more likely to have health conditions that can put them at risk.

  • Drivers who are 80 years and older have the highest rate of death from car crashes compared to all drivers.

If you’re concerned about your (or someone else’s) driving, here are some tools that can help evaluate your driving ability and see if additional steps are needed to keep you safe:

  • Driving Self-Rating Tool: a questionnaire you can take online to evaluate your driving.

  • Driving Skills Evaluations: driving assessments done in the car by trained driving instructors.

  • Clinical Driving Assessments: evaluations done by Occupational Therapist Driving Rehabilitation Specialists (OT-DRSs), which can be helpful if you have certain health conditions. 

How to spot signs you or someone else should stop driving

There are some common warning signs that could mean it’s time to evaluate whether someone should be driving. 

Signs to look for while driving include things like drifting into other lanes, missing traffic signals, and getting easily lost or disoriented. Some people may also experience increased anxiety when they drive.

Here are some other signs to look for: 

  • Multiple car accidents or fender benders

  • Many “near misses” or “close calls” while driving

  • Having two or more traffic warnings or citations in the last two years

  • Many dents or scratches on the car or areas around the car (like a garage door or mailbox)

What are the dangers of continuing to drive when it’s no longer safe? 

There can be serious consequences if someone continues to drive when it’s no longer safe for them to do so. A driver could injure or kill themselves while on the road and also endanger passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. There could also be significant damage to surrounding structures and vehicles. 

What should you do if you think someone is unfit to drive? 

Talking to a loved one about their driving can be hard for everyone involved. But it’s an important conversation to have if you’re concerned about their driving. 

Before starting the conversation, talk to other family members about your concerns. Choosing the right person to start the discussion can be helpful. It should be someone who has a close and respectful relationship to the driver. It’s also a good idea to have specific examples about the person’s driving that support your concerns.

Tips for talking to someone about no longer driving

Here are some tips for talking to someone about their driving:

  • Choose a time to talk when the person will be relaxed and not rushed. 

  • Avoid a confrontation or intervention — focus instead on having an open discussion. 

  • Be encouraging, empathetic, and respectful. 

  • Don’t focus on the person’s age or health condition, but rather their functional ability to drive. 

  • Provide your reasons for concern and give specific examples, without being judgmental or accusatory. 

  • Be open to different solutions — the person may just need senior driving rehabilitation or a medication adjustment.

  • Discuss other transportation options, like arranging for friends or family members to help, or ridesharing apps. 

  • If the person is unwilling to stop, or limit, their driving, you can ask their healthcare provider to weigh in or schedule a driving reassessment. 

Should you avoid driving if you’re taking certain medications?

If you start a new medication (either prescription or over the counter), it’s a good idea to make sure that it doesn’t have any side effects that can make driving unsafe. Some possible side effects include:

  • Feeling sleepy or drowsy

  • Experiencing blurred vision

  • Feeling dizzy or having fainting spells

  • Having a hard time focusing or paying attention

  • Having slowed movements

Medications that could affect your driving

Medications can affect each person differently. Sometimes it’s a combination of medications that can cause symptoms, even if the individual medications didn’t. Some medications can have immediate effects, and others can last for hours — even up to a day.

Anytime you start a new medication, it’s a good idea to see how it affects you before getting behind the wheel.

Here are some common medications that could affect your driving:

  • Opioid pain relievers

  • Some antidepressants (especially older ones, like amitriptyline)

  • Sedatives and anxiety medications (like benzodiazepines)

  • Antihistamines

  • Antiemetics (used to treat vomiting, nausea, and motion sickness)

  • Anti-seizures medications

  • Sleeping pills

  • Some medications used to treat psychiatric disorders

The bottom line

Different situations can affect your ability to drive, like having certain medical conditions, taking certain medications, or getting older. Age-related changes to your mind and body can make it hard to drive. But there are steps you can take to help delay or prevent them. Since everyone ages differently, there is no specific age when people should stop driving. There are tools that can evaluate someone’s driving ability and programs that can offer driving rehab when it’s needed. Talking to a loved one about their driving can be hard, but it’s an important conversation to have.

References

American Automobile Association. (n.d.). Drivers 65 plus: Check your performance.

American Automobile Association. (n.d.). Evaluate your driving ability.

View All References (16)

American Automobile Association. (n.d.). Senior transportation mobility planner.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (n.d.). Driver search.

Beabout, L. (2021). Discussing driving with your aging parent: How to proceed with care and compassion. Care.com.

Carr, D. B. (2000). The older adult driver. American Family Physician.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Chronic kidney disease surveillance system—United States.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Older adult drivers.

Dunham, N. (2020). How to preserve your driving skills when you're driving less. American Association of Retired Persons.

Medicare.org. (n.d.). How to talk with seniors about their unsafe driving.

National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2021). Older population: 2019 data. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). Chapter 8 state licensing requirements and reporting laws. Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers.

National Institute on Aging. (2018). Older drivers.

Ncseniordriver.org. (n.d.). Age-related changes.

Ncseniordriver.org. (n.d.). Driving safely.

Sollitto, M. (2021). 20 warning signs an elderly driver is no longer safe behind the wheel. AgingCare.

The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence., et. al. (2016). Exercise for mature drivers.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2021). Some medicines and driving don’t mix.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

Was this page helpful?

Habits for a Healthier Mind!

Sign up for our GoodRx Mental Well-being Newsletter to receive up-to-date information on the latest medications, tips, and savings that are most relevant to you.

By signing up, I agree to GoodRx's Terms and Privacy Policy, and to receive marketing messages from GoodRx.

Legitscript ApprovedPharmacyBBB Accredited Business
provider image
Welcome! You’re in GoodRx Provider Mode. Now, you’ll enjoy a streamlined experience created specifically for healthcare providers.