How to Tell If a Parent Needs to Stop Driving

woman getting out of car

Knowing when to encourage a senior loved one to give up driving isn’t easy. It involves many factors beyond the age on their driver’s license. While some older adults are good drivers into their nineties, others have health conditions that may put their safety at risk at a much younger age.

There are some undeniable age-related changes that can impact a person’s ability to drive safely. Physical changes, like vision loss and cognitive decline, are just a few. If you are struggling to objectively evaluate an aging family member’s fitness for driving, this list of warning signs can help.

Signs It May Be Time for Seniors to Give up Driving

  1. Driving skills

If you live close by, the easiest way to assess a senior’s driving is to ride along with them. Do so during busy times of day and possibly even after dark. A few signs of an unsafe senior driver include:

  • Driving above or below the posted speed limit
  • Drifting in and out of their lane, especially across the center line
  • Pausing too long at stop signs, red lights, and when merging
  • Riding the brake while pressing the gas pedal, which may indicate nervousness
  • Difficulty pulling into or backing out of a parking space
  • Riding up onto the curb and bumping into things
  1. Senior’s state of mind

An older driver’s state of mind can also play a role in determining their safety behind the wheel. A few emotions that might indicate it’s time for a senior driver to hang up their keys for good include:

  • Anxiety: When an older driver is anxious or nervous driving a car, it can put them and other people on the road at risk. They may hesitate too long and then just “go for it” at traffic lights or intersections.
  • Anger: A senior driver who is quick to anger or suffers from road rage may actually be hiding their stress and fear about driving.
  • Confusion: Early memory loss can make a driver confused or even cause them to get lost going to and from familiar locations.
  1. Health conditions

Some health conditions can impact an older adult’s driving ability. A few common conditions that may necessitate a senior giving up their keys include:

  • Dementia: Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can cause cognitive changes that make driving unsafe. A senior driver might forget where they are going, exercise poor judgment on the road, and even get lost.
  • Arthritis: Driving requires flexibility and range of motion. For adults with arthritis, stiff joints are common. It can result in the senior having trouble getting in and out of the car, looking over their shoulder, or reacting to highway hazards quickly.
  • Vision changes: Glaucoma causes vision loss in the central part of the eye. That makes it easy to miss people and objects on the road. Another vision problem common among seniors is macular degeneration. The disease can make it hard to see road signs, traffic signals, and pedestrians.

If your loved one has any of these warning signs, it may be time to talk to them about hanging up their keys. How to Talk with an Older Adult about Their Fitness for Driving has tips to help make this sometimes-awkward conversation a little easier.

Transportation Included at Five Star

One of the most popular services at Five Star Senior Living communities is transportation. Residents can hang up their car keys for good knowing our transportation team has them covered. Call the Five Star community nearest you to learn more!