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When Should Someone Stop Driving?

A young woman helps an older woman out of her car. The two are wearing winter coats and there is a store in the background.

When older adults are able to get around in their community as often as they like, it benefits both them and their community. Each driver is unique and there is no "magic age" at which it becomes unsafe to drive. Many adults are able to drive safely for most of their lives by understanding the factors that affect their abilities. The decision to stop or limit driving should consider many factors and include the drivers' needs and preferences, as well as transportation options in their community.

Signs of Changed Driving Ability

Some, however, can experience so much change in their abilities that it may no longer be safe to drive. According to AARP, it may be time to consider driving less or alternatives to driving if you or your loved one experiences any of the following:

  • Repeated difficulty staying in the lane of travel;
  • Frequent dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.;
  • Trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance/exit ramps;
  • Increased negative interactions with other drivers (i.e., honking, gestures, etc.);
  • Reluctance of friends or relatives to ride along;
  • Getting lost more often;
  • Difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking straight ahead;
  • Trouble paying attention to or violating signals, road signs, and pavement markings;
  • Slower response to unexpected situations; or
  • Increased reliance on mirrors to check behind and alongside the vehicle.

Discussing driving with loved ones

The decision to drive less or stop driving can be a difficult and emotional one. Being behind the wheel brings a sense of independence, control, and being able to do the things you enjoy. Giving that up can be challenging. As someone who cares about an older loved one, you need to strike a balance between your concern for their safety (and the safety of others) with their right to make their own decisions.

  • Be respectful, but persistent. If they say they don't want to talk about it, that's okay, but bring the topic back up frequently. Often, just showing that you are willing to talk about the issue and your concerns with them can help your loved one recognize a need for change and see that you are on their side. 
  • Shape the discussion around facts and observations. Talk about what is causing you to be concerned. Cite examples that you have observed, but also ask them to evaluate the driving of their peers. Ask them when they think it should be time to drive less.
  • Give them resources to maintain their independence and control over their own lives. Talk about things he or she can do to stay on the road safely. Guide them to driver safety resources and help them access them.
  • Help them explore transportation options in their community. If they are concerned about relying on friends and family for rides, having access to buses, taxis, services like Uber and Lift, and other ride options may help them maintain a sense of independence and make their decision easier. 

If you feel a loved one's driving ability presents an immediate danger to themselves or others, you may need to involve other people in your discussion. A doctor, clergy member, or close friend may have more impact on your loved one than a family member or caregiver.

As a last resort, contact the Ohio Highway Patrol (1-877-7-PATROL) to report dangerous driving. You can do so anonymously and authorities will contact the driver to schedule a driving test to evaluate his or her ability.