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When is someone too old to drive?

Watching a parent age can be a very difficult thing for adult children. When mom and dad aren’t quite as alert or agile as they once were, loved ones may start to wonder if it is still safe for them to drive.

As we all know, driving gives people a sense of freedom and independence. The question remains: is there a point when driving becomes dangerous for an older adult?

Remember: There is no official age or law determining when someone becomes an unsafe driver. As people age, certain physical and cognitive changes may make it more difficult or dangerous to drive.

Recognizing the signs

Driving involves many of our senses along with quick reaction time. To best provide safe driving conditions for all, it is important that every driver is able to safely operate a motor vehicle.

As a concerned child, be on the lookout for these physical changes and conditions that could affect driving safety:

  • Impaired vision and the decreased ability to see clearly, especially at night
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Reduced arm strength
  • Pain and stiffness in the neck
  • Pain in the legs

Additionally, many medications can produce unpredictable side effects. It is important to be aware of any changes in medications, and to know how those changes could affect your parent’s driving ability.

Losing independence

If you notice a difference in your parent’s ability to drive safely, or a loved one confronts you with their safety concerns, it is more than likely the right time to make some changes.

Handle the situation positively by finding alternatives to driving that can help your parent maintain their independence. Rideshares, public transportation, coordination of rides with friends and family, and volunteer organizations can be tremendous assets.

Your parent may be able to continue driving safely for a long time. Even so, it is important to be aware of the changes that may occur over the years and to understand how driving safety may be impacted by those changes. Utilizing the many alternative options for travel that exist in our busy society, which are used by people of all ages, will enable your parent to maintain an active, independent lifestyle without the worries of driving. 

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