When should the elderly stop driving?

There is no set age when the elderly should stop driving. However, older drivers may experience changes that can affect their driving abilities. Some warning signs to look out for include medical conditions, prescription drug use, vision or hearing impairment, and more. If you are concerned about whether an elderly driver should stop driving, approach the subject carefully and with compassion.

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about auto insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and Cinncinati.com. ...

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

UPDATED: Jan 19, 2022

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Can't-Miss Facts

  • Factors such as medical conditions, vision and hearing impairments, prescription drugs, and more can affect an elderly person’s physical and legal ability to drive
  • Some signs that a senior might need to stop driving include tickets or auto insurance rate increases, damage to their vehicle, nervousness about driving, and more
  • When it’s time for a loved one to cease driving, approach the conversation with compassion and curiosity and find ways to provide emotional and practical support

When should the elderly stop driving? The exact age at which someone should cease driving will depend on their specific situation. As people age, many things can occur that will affect their driving abilities, such as medical conditions and more. Many times, even when it seems obvious to family, giving up their license can represent a loss of freedom and independence. So the conversation shouldn’t be handled lightly.

Read more below to find out when it might be time to talk to a loved one about their driving and how to approach the subject in a compassionate manner.

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How does getting older affect driving?

As adults get older, there are many different factors that can affect their ability to drive. While some of these determinants are not typically a reason to stop driving immediately, they may eventually lead to unsafe driving and, therefore, should be monitored.

First, medical conditions are common. Some medical conditions can affect a person’s physical health, while others influence mental health. Either way, these physical and mental changes can affect driving skills such as agility or judgment.

In addition, vision changes can occur. There are changes in how much light you can absorb, how well your eyes focus, how colors are perceived, and how far you can see. For example, older drivers need more light to be able to see than younger drivers, so driving at night may become challenging. In addition, it may take longer for your eyes to focus or to see certain colors. Therefore, there may be a delayed reaction time for judging the distance between objects.

Changes can also occur to hearing. Hearing can gradually deteriorate without a person noticing, which can affect someone’s ability to hear horns, sirens, and more.

If you or your loved one has to take medications for any health complications, you should also ensure that they don’t affect driving or interact with other medications that could interfere with driving. Other factors that can influence your driving ability as you age include slower reflexes and stiff joints or muscles.

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When should the elderly stop driving?

It can sometimes be difficult to balance the need to allow your loved one’s freedom with their safety. Therefore, you should ensure that you don’t become too overly protective but are aware of any warning signs that it might be time to stop driving. First, let’s review the elderly driving laws by state in case you need to know about elderly driver’s license renewal.

Elderly Driving Laws by State
StateElderly Driving Requirements
AlabamaNo special requirements
AlaskaDrivers must renew in person and pass a vision test starting at 69
ArizonaDrivers must renew in person and pass a vision test starting at 65
ArkansasNo special requirements
CaliforniaDrivers must renew in person starting at 70
ColoradoDrivers must renew every five years, starting at 61
ConnecticutDrivers may choose to renew every two years to save money, starting at 65
DelawareNo special requirements
FloridaDrivers must renew every six years, starting at 80
GeorgiaDrivers must pass a vision test at every renewal, starting at 65
HawaiiDrivers must renew every two years, starting at 72
IdahoDrivers must renew every four years, starting at 63
IllinoisDrivers must renew in person and take a road test, starting at 75
IndianaDrivers must renew in person, starting at 70
IowaDrivers must renew every two years, starting at 70
KansasDrivers must renew every four years, starting at 65
KentuckyNo special requirements
LouisianaDrivers must renew in person, starting at 70
MaineDrivers must pass more frequent vision tests starting at 40 and renew every four years, starting at 65
MarylandDrivers must provide a vision report at every renewal, starting at 40
MassachusettsDrivers must renew in person, starting at 75
MichiganNo special requirements
MinnesotaNo special requirements
MississippiNo special requirements
MissouriDrivers must renew every three years, starting at 70
MontanaDrivers must renew every four years, starting at 75
NebraskaNo special requirements
NevadaDrivers must renew every four years, starting at 65
New HampshireNo special requirements
New JerseyNo special requirements
New MexicoDrivers must renew every four years, starting at 67 and every year, starting at 75
New YorkNo special requirements
North CarolinaDrivers must renew every five years, starting at 66
North DakotaDrivers must renew every four years, starting at 78
OhioNo special requirements
OklahomaNo special requirements
OregonDrivers must pass a vision test every eight years, starting at 50
PennsylvaniaDrivers may choose to renew every two years
Rhode IslandDrivers must renew every two years, starting at 75
South CarolinaDrivers must renew every five years, starting at 65
South DakotaDrivers must provide a vision report, starting at 65
TennesseeNo special requirements
TexasDrivers must renew in person, starting at 79 and renew every two years, starting at 85
UtahNo special requirements
VermontNo special requirements
VirginiaDrivers must renew every five years, starting at 75
WashingtonDrivers must renew in person, starting at 70
Washington, D.C. Drivers must renew in person and provide certification of physical and mental competence, starting at 70
West VirginiaNo special requirements
WisconsinNo special requirements
WyomingNo special requirements

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What is the average age to stop driving? Because there are so many factors that determine a person’s ability to drive, there is no set age at which everybody should give up their license. However, drivers over 75 have a higher crash death rate than middle-aged drivers, and there are indicators as to when to stop driving. Therefore, driving at 80 years old and older may present a higher risk.

You may want to calmly ask your loved one if they have received any tickets or changes to their auto insurance rates. If their auto insurance rates have increased, this could indicate that they have received driving infractions, which could be a warning sign if there is no past history of driving issues.

You may also want to take a minute when your loved one is not around to check for any damage. If there are scratches or dents, you may want to carefully broach the subject with the driver. In addition, if your loved one seems reluctant or nervous to drive, it could be a sign that they are no longer feeling comfortable enough to drive.

If you take a drive with your loved one, you should observe their driving habits. How do they react to driving? Do they seem tense? Do they wear their seatbelt? Do they seem aware and observant? How do they react to their surroundings? Do they know where they’re going? Many times, declining driving skills don’t necessarily result in an immediate increase in tickets or accidents.

You could also ask your loved one’s friends or neighbors if they’ve noticed any issues with driving.

How do I approach a loved one about driving?

Having a conversation to inform a loved one that it is time to stop driving can be awkward, embarrassing, or a myriad of other emotions. However, it is necessary to avoid the potential consequences of unsafe driving.

Take some time to plan how you will approach the conversation. Consider how it might feel from your loved one’s point of view. They may be sad or feel powerless when confronted with the situation, and they could struggle with the idea of what to do when it is time to cease driving.

The first time you have this conversation with your loved one it is unlikely to be the last. It may take a few times to get the matter to sink in and discuss how to transition away from driving in a way that works for everyone.

You may want to begin the conversation by asking questions to understand how your loved one feels about the situation and their driving abilities. Curiosity and compassion will go a long way in creating trust regarding the transition.

Help your loved one reflect on their feelings. Instead of offering immediate solutions to their objections, simply rephrase what you’re hearing to engage in reflective listening. If your loved one begins to reminisce about their driving history, let them. Also let them have their input regarding how to move forward.

How can I help a senior transition away from driving?

There are several ways that you can support a senior when they must cease driving. The senior is likely to need both emotional and practical support.

When a senior is told that they can no longer drive, they often need time to grieve. During this time, make sure to listen to them if they voice their opinions or reminisce about memories that involve driving. You can also share your own memories, or encourage them to open up about it by looking at photos or asking them questions.

Ensure that you know how to recognize signs of depression, such as irritability, withdrawal, fatigue, or loss of appetite. Make yourself available to them, especially during the transition period, either by being there physically or over the phone. Offer to drive them when you can, and encourage them to remain social as much as possible.

To help a senior get around, you can help them learn how to use public transportation. Ride the bus or take a taxi with them a few times until they get the hang of it. You could also help them identify people who might be willing to give them rides. You may also be able to find tips for elderly drivers from AARP and similar resources.

Another option is to help your loved one find new hobbies and activities that they can participate in which don’t involve driving. Offer to help with projects and keep them updated with local news and events that they might be able to attend.

If you need help finding auto insurance for a senior that is still driving, enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool below.

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