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    Healthy Aging: Is It Time to Stop Driving?

    Healthy Aging: Is It Time to Stop Driving?

    You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

    Healthy Aging: Is It Time to Stop Driving?

    Get the facts

    Your options

    • Stop driving.
    • Keep driving, but watch for warning signs that driving is no longer safe.

    This decision aid helps you decide if you are still able to drive safely. You may also find it helpful if you are worried about the safety of an older adult driver.

    Key points to remember

    • As you get older, your vision, reflexes, and hearing change. These changes can make it harder for you to drive safely.
    • People age 70 and older are more likely to crash than any other age group besides drivers age 25 and younger. And because older drivers are more fragile, they are more likely to get hurt or die from these crashes. 1
    • There's no set age when everyone should stop driving. Each person is different. But keep in mind that most people drive 7 to 10 years longer than they should. 2 Here are some warning signs to watch for:
      • Other drivers often honk at you.
      • You are having accidents, even if they are only fender benders.
      • You have trouble staying in your lane.
      • You get lost, even on roads you know.
    • Talk with your doctor about health problems that could get in the way of driving safely. For example, do you have stiffness or joint pain that makes it hard to turn your head or the steering wheel? Do you have problems seeing or hearing clearly?
    • To stay safe, avoid driving at night, on the freeway, or in bad weather. Plan to drive on streets you know. Take roads that let you avoid risky spots such as ramps and left turns.
    • Talk with your family and friends about your transportation needs. They may be able to help. Or think about public transit and taxis as a way to get around. Ask your local senior center for other ideas.
    FAQs

    How does aging affect your driving?

    As you get older, your vision, reflexes, and hearing change. These changes can make it harder for you to drive safely. For example, as you age:

    • Your vision gets weaker.
    • Your reflexes get slower. You may not be able to brake or turn the wheel quickly if you need to.
    • Weak muscles and stiff joints can make it hard to look behind you when you back up.

    Of these changes, vision is the most important. Aging affects your vision in several ways:

    • Light. The older you are, the more light you need to drive. To see well, a 60-year-old needs 10 times as much light as a 19-year-old. This is why it's a good idea to avoid driving at night if you can.
    • Focus. How well your eyes can change focus declines as you age. Younger drivers need only about 2 seconds to adjust their focus from near to far, such as looking from the dashboard to the road ahead. Drivers over age 40 need 3 seconds or more. The older you are, the more time your eyes need.
    • Colors. Colors, especially red, get harder to see as you age. Some older drivers take twice as long to see the flash of brake lights as younger drivers.
    • Depth perception. As you age, your vision gets weaker. You may not have good side vision or depth perception. This makes it harder for you to judge how fast other cars are moving.

    People age 70 and older are more likely to crash than any other age group besides drivers age 25 and under. And because older drivers are more fragile, they are more likely to get hurt or die from these crashes. 1

    How will you know when it's time to stop driving?

    There's no set age when everyone should stop driving. Each person is different. But most people drive 7 to 10 years longer than they should. 2 You might think about giving up driving if:

    • Other drivers often honk at you.
    • You are having accidents, even if they are only fender benders.
    • You have trouble staying in your lane.
    • You get lost, even on roads you know.

    Here are some other warning signs that it's time to stop driving:

    • You often have close calls with other drivers.
    • You have trouble moving your foot between the gas and brake pedals, or you get confused between the two.
    • Loved ones are worried about your driving.
    • You feel scared or nervous when you drive.
    • Other cars, bikes, or people seem to appear out of nowhere.
    • You miss traffic signs and signals when you drive.

    How will you get around if you stop driving?

    Even with planning, deciding to stop driving is hard. It marks the end of a stage of life. And you might be worried about how you will get around.

    Here are some ways to get ready.

    • Ask your family and friends for help. If asking for help is hard for you, you could offer to pay for their time or gas to take you on errands.
    • Practice using public transportation. If you're thinking of taking the bus, try doing it a few times before you stop driving. This will give you an idea of when you can rely on the bus and when you might need other help getting around.
    • Think about using taxis. It may sound expensive. But don't forget that it also costs a lot to own a car, buy gas, and pay for insurance and maintenance.
    • Check with your local senior center about other transit options. Some areas offer low-cost bus or taxi service for older people. You can learn more about what's available in your area at www.eldercare.gov.

    If you do stop driving, it's okay to keep your car for a while. You might feel better just knowing it's there. And it may be easier to ask others for help if you can offer the use of your car.

    If you do decide to keep driving, how can you drive safely?

    If you have weighed the pros and cons and have decided to keep driving, think about taking a driver safety course for older drivers. It will help you measure how well you can drive. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers a course. So do many hospitals and state motor vehicle departments.

    Next, talk with your doctor about any health problems that could get in the way of driving safely, such as:

    • Joint pain. Pain and stiffness can make it hard to turn your head or the steering wheel. A car with automatic transmission and power steering can make it easier for you to drive. Staying active and exercising can help improve your strength and flexibility.
    • Vision loss. Have your eyes checked every 1 to 2 years if you are 65 or older. Or have them checked sooner if you notice a change. Make sure your eyeglass prescription is accurate.
    • Hearing problems. Have your hearing checked regularly, and use a hearing aid if you need one.

    To stay safe while driving:

    • Avoid driving at night or in bad weather. When in doubt, don't go out.
    • Drive on streets you know. Keep your headlights on at all times.
    • Take roads that let you avoid risky spots such as ramps and left turns. Or try to find routes where left turns have green-arrow signals.
    • Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you. Start braking early when you know you'll need to stop soon.
    • Avoid distractions such as eating, listening to the radio, or having conversations.
    • Remind yourself to look both ways when you approach an intersection.
    • Avoid highways where speed makes it hard to judge distances. If you do drive on the freeway, stay in the right-hand lane. Traffic moves more slowly there. This might give you more time to make safe driving decisions.

    Compare your options

    Compare

    What is usually involved?









    What are the benefits?









    What are the risks and side effects?









    Stop driving Stop driving
    • Instead of driving, you find a safer option.
    • You rely on friends, family, taxis, or public transit to get around.
    • You are safer than if you continue to drive, especially if you are having accidents, getting lost, or having other problems while driving.
    • You are free from the stress of driving.
    • You may feel you have lost your independence.
    • You will need to rely on others to get around.
    • You have to plan ahead when you have an appointment or want to go out.
    Keep driving Keep driving
    • You take a driver safety course for older drivers to measure how well you can drive.
    • You watch for warning signs that it may be time to stop driving, such as having accidents, getting lost, or having other problems while driving.
    • You start thinking about your options for the future. At some point, you may need to stop driving.
    • You keep your independence.
    • You don't have to plan ahead when you have an appointment or want to go out.
    • If you are no longer able to drive safely, you are putting yourself at risk for death or injury.
    • You may be putting passengers and other drivers at risk.

    Personal stories

    Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

    Personal stories about the decision to stop driving

    These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

    I never thought I would stop driving. But one day I drove through a stop sign and got a ticket. My daughter Amy sat me down and told me she's been worried. I've had some close calls on the road. I can't drive at night at all anymore. Now Amy's afraid to let my grandkids ride with me. That was hard to hear. But I think it's time for me to stop driving. I'm actually kind of relieved.

    Beulah, 68

    I like being able to go where I want, when I want. So I took the driver course for older adults. I did okay. I passed. But I'm a careful driver. I don't drive anywhere that's out of my comfort zone. At some point, I may have to stop driving, but not now.

    Mateo, 81

    At first I was angry when my wife started hinting that I should stop driving. I've had a perfect driving record for 60 years! But sometimes I get lost when I'm driving by myself. And last month, I had to pull off the highway on the way to the doctor's office. All the cars were going so fast, I got scared. Then I almost hit another car on the ramp. Maybe my wife is right. Maybe I should think about not driving anymore.

    Stefan, 79

    I would just feel terrible if someone else got hurt while I was driving. I think I'm okay behind the wheel right now. I have a handout from the senior center on safe driving tips. It includes some warning signs to watch for, so I'll know when it's time to think about stopping. Even though I'm going to keep driving, I can start planning now for when I can't.

    Grace, 75

    What matters most to you?

    Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

    Reasons to stop driving

    Reasons to keep driving

    I'm worried about getting into an accident.

    I'm not worried about getting into an accident.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    I feel nervous and scared when I drive.

    I feel sure of myself when I drive.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    I'm afraid that my driving might lead to someone else getting hurt.

    I'm not afraid that my driving might lead to someone else getting hurt.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    My loved ones are worried about my driving.

    My loved ones are not worried about my driving.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    I am comfortable depending on others to help me get around.

    I want to be able to go where I want, when I want, without depending on others.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    My other important reasons:

    My other important reasons:

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    Where are you leaning now?

    Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

    Stopping driving

    Keeping driving

    Leaning toward
    Undecided
    Leaning toward

    What else do you need to make your decision?

    Check the facts

    1.

    Aging causes physical changes that can make it harder for me to drive safely.

    • True You're right. As you get older, your vision, reflexes, and hearing change. These changes can make it harder for you to drive safely.
    • False Sorry, that's not right. As you get older, your vision, reflexes, and hearing change. These changes can make it harder for you to drive safely.
    • I'm not sure It may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." As you get older, your vision, reflexes, and hearing change. These changes can make it harder for you to drive safely.
    2.

    I'll know it's time to stop driving when I reach a certain milestone age.

    • True No, that's wrong. There's no set age when everyone should stop driving. Each person is different. But you can watch for warning signs such as having accidents, even if they are only fender benders, or getting lost on roads you know.
    • False You're right. There's no set age when everyone should stop driving. Each person is different. But you can watch for warning signs such as having accidents, even if they are only fender benders, or getting lost on roads you know.
    • I'm not sure It may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." There's no set age when everyone should stop driving. But you can watch for warning signs such as having accidents?even just fender benders?or getting lost on roads you know.
    3.

    Older, experienced drivers like me are less likely than other drivers to crash and get hurt while driving.

    • True Sorry, that's not right. People age 65 and older are more likely to crash than any other age group besides teenagers. And because older adults are more fragile, they are more likely to get hurt or die from these crashes.
    • False You're right. People age 65 and older are more likely to crash than any other age group besides teenagers. And because older adults are more fragile, they are more likely to get hurt or die from these crashes.
    • I'm not sure It may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." People age 65 and older are more likely to crash than any other age group besides teenagers. And older adults are more likely to get hurt or die from these crashes.

    Decide what's next

    1.

    Do you understand the options available to you?

    2.

    Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

    3.

    Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

    Certainty

    1.

    How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

    Not sure at all
    Somewhat sure
    Very sure
    3.

    Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

    Your Summary

    Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.

    Your decision

    Next steps

    Which way you're leaning

    How sure you are

    Your comments

    Your knowledge of the facts

    Key concepts that you understood

    Key concepts that may need review

    Getting ready to act

    Patient choices

    Credits and References

    Credits
    Credits Healthwise Staff
    Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical Reviewer Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine

    References
    Citations
    1. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (2010). Q&As: Older people. Available online: http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/older_people.html.
    2. American Society on Aging (ASA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (2007). Drive Well Toolkit: Promoting Older Driver Safety and Mobility in Your Community. Available online: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Driver+Education/Senior+Drivers/Drive+Well+Toolkit:+Promoting+Older+Driver+Safety+and+Mobility+in+Your+Community.
    You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

    Healthy Aging: Is It Time to Stop Driving?

    Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.
    1. Get the facts
    2. Compare your options
    3. What matters most to you?
    4. Where are you leaning now?
    5. What else do you need to make your decision?

    1. Get the Facts

    Your options

    • Stop driving.
    • Keep driving, but watch for warning signs that driving is no longer safe.

    This decision aid helps you decide if you are still able to drive safely. You may also find it helpful if you are worried about the safety of an older adult driver.

    Key points to remember

    • As you get older, your vision, reflexes, and hearing change. These changes can make it harder for you to drive safely.
    • People age 70 and older are more likely to crash than any other age group besides drivers age 25 and younger. And because older drivers are more fragile, they are more likely to get hurt or die from these crashes. 1
    • There's no set age when everyone should stop driving. Each person is different. But keep in mind that most people drive 7 to 10 years longer than they should. 2 Here are some warning signs to watch for:
      • Other drivers often honk at you.
      • You are having accidents, even if they are only fender benders.
      • You have trouble staying in your lane.
      • You get lost, even on roads you know.
    • Talk with your doctor about health problems that could get in the way of driving safely. For example, do you have stiffness or joint pain that makes it hard to turn your head or the steering wheel? Do you have problems seeing or hearing clearly?
    • To stay safe, avoid driving at night, on the freeway, or in bad weather. Plan to drive on streets you know. Take roads that let you avoid risky spots such as ramps and left turns.
    • Talk with your family and friends about your transportation needs. They may be able to help. Or think about public transit and taxis as a way to get around. Ask your local senior center for other ideas.
    FAQs

    How does aging affect your driving?

    As you get older, your vision, reflexes, and hearing change. These changes can make it harder for you to drive safely. For example, as you age:

    • Your vision gets weaker.
    • Your reflexes get slower. You may not be able to brake or turn the wheel quickly if you need to.
    • Weak muscles and stiff joints can make it hard to look behind you when you back up.

    Of these changes, vision is the most important. Aging affects your vision in several ways:

    • Light. The older you are, the more light you need to drive. To see well, a 60-year-old needs 10 times as much light as a 19-year-old. This is why it's a good idea to avoid driving at night if you can.
    • Focus. How well your eyes can change focus declines as you age. Younger drivers need only about 2 seconds to adjust their focus from near to far, such as looking from the dashboard to the road ahead. Drivers over age 40 need 3 seconds or more. The older you are, the more time your eyes need.
    • Colors. Colors, especially red, get harder to see as you age. Some older drivers take twice as long to see the flash of brake lights as younger drivers.
    • Depth perception. As you age, your vision gets weaker. You may not have good side vision or depth perception. This makes it harder for you to judge how fast other cars are moving.

    People age 70 and older are more likely to crash than any other age group besides drivers age 25 and under. And because older drivers are more fragile, they are more likely to get hurt or die from these crashes. 1

    How will you know when it's time to stop driving?

    There's no set age when everyone should stop driving. Each person is different. But most people drive 7 to 10 years longer than they should. 2 You might think about giving up driving if:

    • Other drivers often honk at you.
    • You are having accidents, even if they are only fender benders.
    • You have trouble staying in your lane.
    • You get lost, even on roads you know.

    Here are some other warning signs that it's time to stop driving:

    • You often have close calls with other drivers.
    • You have trouble moving your foot between the gas and brake pedals, or you get confused between the two.
    • Loved ones are worried about your driving.
    • You feel scared or nervous when you drive.
    • Other cars, bikes, or people seem to appear out of nowhere.
    • You miss traffic signs and signals when you drive.

    How will you get around if you stop driving?

    Even with planning, deciding to stop driving is hard. It marks the end of a stage of life. And you might be worried about how you will get around.

    Here are some ways to get ready.

    • Ask your family and friends for help. If asking for help is hard for you, you could offer to pay for their time or gas to take you on errands.
    • Practice using public transportation. If you're thinking of taking the bus, try doing it a few times before you stop driving. This will give you an idea of when you can rely on the bus and when you might need other help getting around.
    • Think about using taxis. It may sound expensive. But don't forget that it also costs a lot to own a car, buy gas, and pay for insurance and maintenance.
    • Check with your local senior center about other transit options. Some areas offer low-cost bus or taxi service for older people. You can learn more about what's available in your area at www.eldercare.gov.

    If you do stop driving, it's okay to keep your car for a while. You might feel better just knowing it's there. And it may be easier to ask others for help if you can offer the use of your car.

    If you do decide to keep driving, how can you drive safely?

    If you have weighed the pros and cons and have decided to keep driving, think about taking a driver safety course for older drivers. It will help you measure how well you can drive. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers a course. So do many hospitals and state motor vehicle departments.

    Next, talk with your doctor about any health problems that could get in the way of driving safely, such as:

    • Joint pain. Pain and stiffness can make it hard to turn your head or the steering wheel. A car with automatic transmission and power steering can make it easier for you to drive. Staying active and exercising can help improve your strength and flexibility.
    • Vision loss. Have your eyes checked every 1 to 2 years if you are 65 or older. Or have them checked sooner if you notice a change. Make sure your eyeglass prescription is accurate.
    • Hearing problems. Have your hearing checked regularly, and use a hearing aid if you need one.

    To stay safe while driving:

    • Avoid driving at night or in bad weather. When in doubt, don't go out.
    • Drive on streets you know. Keep your headlights on at all times.
    • Take roads that let you avoid risky spots such as ramps and left turns. Or try to find routes where left turns have green-arrow signals.
    • Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you. Start braking early when you know you'll need to stop soon.
    • Avoid distractions such as eating, listening to the radio, or having conversations.
    • Remind yourself to look both ways when you approach an intersection.
    • Avoid highways where speed makes it hard to judge distances. If you do drive on the freeway, stay in the right-hand lane. Traffic moves more slowly there. This might give you more time to make safe driving decisions.

    2. Compare your options

    Stop driving Keep driving
    What is usually involved?
    • Instead of driving, you find a safer option.
    • You rely on friends, family, taxis, or public transit to get around.
    • You take a driver safety course for older drivers to measure how well you can drive.
    • You watch for warning signs that it may be time to stop driving, such as having accidents, getting lost, or having other problems while driving.
    • You start thinking about your options for the future. At some point, you may need to stop driving.
    What are the benefits?
    • You are safer than if you continue to drive, especially if you are having accidents, getting lost, or having other problems while driving.
    • You are free from the stress of driving.
    • You keep your independence.
    • You don't have to plan ahead when you have an appointment or want to go out.
    What are the risks and side effects?
    • You may feel you have lost your independence.
    • You will need to rely on others to get around.
    • You have to plan ahead when you have an appointment or want to go out.
    • If you are no longer able to drive safely, you are putting yourself at risk for death or injury.
    • You may be putting passengers and other drivers at risk.

    Personal stories

    Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

    Personal stories about the decision to stop driving

    These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

    "I never thought I would stop driving. But one day I drove through a stop sign and got a ticket. My daughter Amy sat me down and told me she's been worried. I've had some close calls on the road. I can't drive at night at all anymore. Now Amy's afraid to let my grandkids ride with me. That was hard to hear. But I think it's time for me to stop driving. I'm actually kind of relieved."

    ? Beulah, 68

    "I like being able to go where I want, when I want. So I took the driver course for older adults. I did okay. I passed. But I'm a careful driver. I don't drive anywhere that's out of my comfort zone. At some point, I may have to stop driving, but not now."

    ? Mateo, 81

    "At first I was angry when my wife started hinting that I should stop driving. I've had a perfect driving record for 60 years! But sometimes I get lost when I'm driving by myself. And last month, I had to pull off the highway on the way to the doctor's office. All the cars were going so fast, I got scared. Then I almost hit another car on the ramp. Maybe my wife is right. Maybe I should think about not driving anymore."

    ? Stefan, 79

    "I would just feel terrible if someone else got hurt while I was driving. I think I'm okay behind the wheel right now. I have a handout from the senior center on safe driving tips. It includes some warning signs to watch for, so I'll know when it's time to think about stopping. Even though I'm going to keep driving, I can start planning now for when I can't."

    ? Grace, 75

    3. What matters most to you?

    Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

    Reasons to stop driving

    Reasons to keep driving

    I'm worried about getting into an accident.

    I'm not worried about getting into an accident.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    I feel nervous and scared when I drive.

    I feel sure of myself when I drive.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    I'm afraid that my driving might lead to someone else getting hurt.

    I'm not afraid that my driving might lead to someone else getting hurt.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    My loved ones are worried about my driving.

    My loved ones are not worried about my driving.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    I am comfortable depending on others to help me get around.

    I want to be able to go where I want, when I want, without depending on others.

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    My other important reasons:

    My other important reasons:

    More important
    Equally important
    More important

    4. Where are you leaning now?

    Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

    Stopping driving

    Keeping driving

    Leaning toward
    Undecided
    Leaning toward

    5. What else do you need to make your decision?

    Check the facts

    1. Aging causes physical changes that can make it harder for me to drive safely.

    • True
    • False
    • I'm not sure
    You're right. As you get older, your vision, reflexes, and hearing change. These changes can make it harder for you to drive safely.

    2. I'll know it's time to stop driving when I reach a certain milestone age.

    • True
    • False
    • I'm not sure
    You're right. There's no set age when everyone should stop driving. Each person is different. But you can watch for warning signs such as having accidents, even if they are only fender benders, or getting lost on roads you know.

    3. Older, experienced drivers like me are less likely than other drivers to crash and get hurt while driving.

    • True
    • False
    • I'm not sure
    You're right. People age 65 and older are more likely to crash than any other age group besides teenagers. And because older adults are more fragile, they are more likely to get hurt or die from these crashes.

    Decide what's next

    1. Do you understand the options available to you?

    2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

    3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

    Certainty

    1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

    Not sure at all
    Somewhat sure
    Very sure

    2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

    • I'm ready to take action.
    • I want to discuss the options with others.
    • I want to learn more about my options.

    3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

    Credits
    By Healthwise Staff
    Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical Reviewer Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine

    References
    Citations
    1. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (2010). Q&As: Older people. Available online: http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/older_people.html.
    2. American Society on Aging (ASA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (2007). Drive Well Toolkit: Promoting Older Driver Safety and Mobility in Your Community. Available online: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Driver+Education/Senior+Drivers/Drive+Well+Toolkit:+Promoting+Older+Driver+Safety+and+Mobility+in+Your+Community.

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