Elderly Drivers: When Is It Time to Stop Driving?

 An old woman drives a car in front of a “No Stopping Any Time” sign

A brief overview...

  • It can be difficult to lose that independence, but it’s important to be aware of the risks you face and prioritize safety as an older driver.
  • Drivers aged 80 and over might not be able to find an insurance company willing to insure them.
  • Age is not the sole element that indicates someone should stop driving.

Driving is a normal and important aspect in the lives of many adults. When you get older, however, you may not be able to safely get behind the wheel. People who are over the age of 65 have unique concerns and needs when it comes to driving.

There are many differences between an 18-year-old driver and a senior citizen; an 18-year-old has much faster reaction times, but a senior citizen has a lifetime of experience driving.

Years of driving experience tends to make senior citizens better drivers, and as such, they enjoy lower insurance rates than teenagers (who are more likely to be involved in a serious accident), or younger adults until they are 70 years old.

Nevertheless, aging drivers aren’t always fit to operate a vehicle.

It can be difficult to lose that independence, but it’s important to be aware of the risks you face and prioritize safety as an older driver.

This can help you and your family members make an informed decision about whether or not it’s time to stop driving.

Elderly Drivers Statistics

Several institutions have collected data about senior drivers to help determine when seniors should stop driving, what additional risks they face as an older driver, and how age can impact safety on the road:

  • The CDC found that there were 7,400 adults aged 65-plus killed and more than 290,000 of the same group treated in emergency departments due to motor vehicle crashes in 2016;
  • This amounted to an average of 20 older adults killed and 794 injured every day;
  • Involvement in fatal crashes per-mile-traveled increased between the ages of 70 and 74 and peaked among drivers 85 and older.
  • In 2016, there were 42 million licensed older drivers, a 56 percent increase from 1999.
  • Drivers aged 70 to 74 had a driving life expectancy of about 11 years.
  • Drivers 70 and over are 13 percent more likely to file a claim than individuals in their 40s or 50s, and, as such, are likely to see a price spike after the age of 70.
  • About 68 percent of drivers age 85 or over reported driving five or more days per week.

Drivers aged 80 and over might not be able to find an insurance company willing to insure them.

Is There an Age Limit for Driving?

There is no upper age limit for drivers in the U.S. Individual states have their own laws and licensing requirements for older adults, though.

Depending on where you live, you may have to renew your driver’s license in person instead of via the mail or online; pass a written or practical driving test; take a vision test or eye exam, or renew your license more frequently after a certain age.

Each state is a bit different.

For example, California allows automatic two-year license renewals until age 70. After 70, renewals must be in-person, with a written test and an eye exam.

In Florida, there is no change until the age of 80, when licenses can only be renewed every six years instead of every eight, and an eye exam is required.

Georgia is similar, except instead of 80, renewals change at 59, changing for eight years to five. At age 64, eye exams are required for renewals.

New York has no changes. Everyone can renew their license every eight years.

– Average Age Seniors Stop Driving

There is no true average age when older adults stop driving, as age is only one factor for determining when seniors should stop driving.

Every person is different and has unique health concerns and needs that will help determine this, as someone who is 80 may be more fit to continue driving than someone who is 55; it all depends on the individual.

Signs Seniors Should Stop Driving

There are certain signs to pay attention to if you or a loved one is an elderly driver.

If these signs resonate with you or a loved one, consider talking with them to see if they still feel comfortable and competent behind the wheel. These signs include:

  • Not stopping at stop signs or red lights;
  • Stopping at green lights;
  • Getting lost;
  • Accidents like sideswiping cars when trying to park;
  • Erratic speed control;
  • Road rage or stress while driving;
  • Difficulty changing lanes or merging.

As stated before, age is not the sole element that indicates someone should stop driving. Instead, other warning signs, while related to somebody’s age, are what should be observed and used to make determining factors.

This is supported by state law, to a degree; while some states have different rules for senior citizens in regards to how they renew their driving license, age is not an automatic disqualification.

In fact, drivers between the ages of 50 and 70 often enjoy deep discounts on their car insurance.

Just because a senior stops driving doesn’t mean they have to lose their independence.

With public transportation, family, on-demand services like Uber and Lyft, and driverless cars on the horizon, even a senior who can no longer drive themselves are able to get around town.