Deciding when to stop driving is difficult. After all, your independence is important to you, and you’ve likely been transporting yourself without help since you were around 16 years old. But for many older adults, the safest thing to do is to hang up the keys and seek alternate methods of transportation. Here are four warning signs that it may be unsafe to continue driving:
1. Visual Impairments
One of the biggest reasons seniors stop driving is decreased visual acuity from macular degeneration, glaucoma, or cataracts. If you’re having difficulty reading signs or if the glare while driving at night makes it difficult to stay in your lane, it’s no longer safe to drive, according to the AARP. Poor vision alone can also be a barrier to senior driving, as visual deterioration makes it difficult to pass the vision test and renew your driver’s license. The best, safest thing you can do in any case is be honest with yourself if you’re struggling.
2. Misjudgment of Space
If you’re denting and scuffing your car on things such as the garage door, the mailbox, or other cars in parking lots, your ability to judge space and gaps between you and objects may be too impaired to drive. Too many fender benders or an increasing number of close calls where you narrowly avoid accidents may be good indications that it’s time to stop driving.
3. Getting Lost
If you often find yourself getting lost on the way to places you’ve been many times before, such as the grocery store, it is likely unsafe for you to continue driving. If memory loss is persistent, it’s also crucial that you address it with your doctor.
4. Physical Limitations
Our reflexes slow down as we age, and if you are having trouble reacting to unexpected driving situations or switching from the gas pedal to the brake pedal quickly enough, that’s another warning it may be time to stop getting behind the wheel. Another physical limitation may be a lack of flexibility to turn and check other lanes before moving into them, or when backing up.
Safe Driving Assistance
There are a few resources you can use compensate for some of these problems if they are minor, such as camera systems that can aid with backing up, if looking behind you is a problem. You can also take driver safety classes from AARP to sharpen your skills, and visit your eye doctor to see if visual impairments can be corrected with an updated eyeglass prescription. Don’t forget to choose vehicles that are senior friendly, such as sedans you can easily get in and out of, and vehicles with large dashboard controls you can easily read.
You want the freedom to get in your car and drive, but your safety — and the safety of others — is important, too. Assess your abilities and the tools available to you, and be honest in deciding when to stop driving. By exercising caution, you can make the most informed decision possible, and maintain a longer, healthier life.