Cars & Transportation

Driving Tips & Alternatives For Older Adults

Is it time for you to stop driving? The need for enhanced awareness of driver safety and precautions against accidents and injury, increases as you age. These driving safety tips for older adults and seniors can help you to keep driving and preserve your independence until it’s time to hand over your keys. And when it IS time to stop driving yourself, there are alternative transportations options to consider.

safe driving, tips, older adults, seniors, senior drivers, driving abilities, aging, is it time to stop driving, driving alternatives, transportation options, (Older Driver Photo: Nicholas Byrne via Unsplash)

Safety Tips for Senior Drivers

According to the CDC, age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes (such as arthritis or reduced strength), may affect some older adults’ driving abilities. The safety tips below may help to save the life of you or another driver, and allow you to continue driving safely for as long as possible.

Safety Tips for Senior Drivers

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines (both prescription and over-the counter) to reduce possible side effects and drug interactions.
  • Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and wear your glasses and contact lenses as required.
  • Plan your route before you drive (a GPS is a handy backup); pick the safest route with well-lit streets, and easy parking.
  • Leave a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
  • Avoid distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, texting, and eating.
  • Check and adjust your vehicle’s mirror, seat height, and steering wheel position as needed, each time before you drive.
  • Drive during daylight hours and in good weather.
  • Install and use adaptive devices for your vehicle as needed to enhance your ability to view the road, steer, and drive and steer (seat-back cushions, dashboard rear-view camera, etc.).
  • Look for car and driver education classes for older adults, such as Car Fit.
  • Consider potential alternatives to driving (friends, family, public transportation and more – see below).

Are driver-less cars the answer? Older adults reluctant to give up their independence along with their car keys may be hoping that’s the case. 

AARP and columnist Jay Mathews, in his opinion piece for The Washington PostAs a senior citizen, a self-driving car will be my godsend“, posit that self-driving cars will be the answer to the problem of transportation for the elderly, whose vision, mobility, judgement and reflexes tend to deteriorate with aging.

Jay Mathews and his wife Linda disagree over whether this new technology will truly deliver as it promises with on-road testing so far. But, they are worried that their children won’t have time to drive them everywhere. And Jay confesses that Linda does all the driving now since he fell asleep at the wheel a few years ago.

It seems like the big car manufacturers are looking to the future and they don’t necessarily see drivers at the wheel. 

Ten Signs It’s Time to Stop Driving

If you’re nearing your senior citizen years, plan ahead for the time when you have to stop driving so that the decision can be yours, and before there are any negative consequences – including death – for you or someone else on the road with you, when you’re driving.

AARP shares 10 warning signs, any one of which is enough for someone (regardless of age) to begin to limit or stop driving:

  1. Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls”.
  2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
  3. Getting lost, especially in familiar locations (cognitive difficulty).
  4. Vision problems day or night- Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings.
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals.
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps (calculating speed, time, and distance; high speed lane changes).
  7. Experiencing road rage or causing other drivers to honk or complain.
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving.
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check the rear view while backing up or changing lanes.
  10. Receiving multiple traffic tickets or “warnings” from law enforcement officers.

For some folks, depending on their situation and abilities, a first step to road safety for seniors may be to ensure their mirrors, steering wheel, and seat position are properly adjusted. A next step may be to limit driving to local neighbourhoods (slower speed of traffic) and/or daytime driving conditions, before seniors stop driving completely.

Alternatives to Driving for Seniors

There are alternatives to driving when it comes fulfilling your daily household and personal needs. 

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, most seniors rely on friends and family, but there are several other good transportation services for seniors and home delivery options to consider using when you stop driving yourself:

Family – Let your live-in, licensed family member (spouse, partner, adult children) do the driving.

Friends – Arrange drives with friends and trusted neighbours to common shared destinations – weekly grocery shopping, social activities, etc.

Community Programs – Explore your local community volunteer and subsidized programs for transportation and home delivery

Paid Transportation & Delivery Services – Proceeds from the sale of a car and monthly savings if you no longer have to pay car insurance, will greatly offset the cost of:

  • Public transportation (buses, trains, etc.), including subsidized transportation for the elderly and/or disabled, where available.
  • Offering a friend or family member some compensation for driving you.
  • Licensed door-to-door private transportation providers, including taxis.
  • In-home service providers for seniors (haircuts, aesthetics, footcare, dental hygiene, massage therapy, etc.) and the family pet (grooming, dog walking).
  • Home delivery services – groceries, pet food, prescriptions, etc.; most of which can be ordered online or arranged via a phone call.

Just because you’re no longer driving, doesn’t mean you have to give up enjoying the amenities of life that you have always enjoyed. For your own safety and that of others, don’t wait for your friends, family, or doctor to tell you it’s time to start thinking about giving up the car keys.

*This article is for general informational purposes only. 50+ World does endorse any product or service providers, nor does it receive remuneration from them. Obtain expert advice – financial, legal, medical, industry-specific, etc. – from qualified practitioners about your unique situation.*

Anita Hamilton

50+ World editor & writer Anita Hamilton's articles are inspired by real historical events, places, and people. Her travel experiences, a lifelong keen interest in history, art, vintage music, books, silent films, classic movies, "golden age" television shows, fashion, & entertainment in general - combined with years of research - make her a subject matter expert with acquired knowledge & expertise on these topics. This, and a loving and supportive family complete with 3 mini-dachshund minions, keeps her busy.

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