Seniors and Driving: When Is It Time To Give Up The Car Keys?

Knowing when to stop driving as a senior is rarely easy. For many, driving represents independence, mobility and socialization. Giving it up is difficult to imagine. For some, the logistics of no longer being able to drive seem impossible to manage. Data shows that older drivers do pose a real risk to themselves and others on the road so it is crucial to know how to recognize signs that it could be time to stop.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, the risk of being involved in a fatal accident begins to increase at age 70 and reaches its peak after age 85. Senior drivers are the second most likely group to be killed in an accident, only behind new teenage drivers. Although the risk of an accident clearly increases with age, it is not age alone that makes an unsafe driver. Physical health and mental clarity are essential to safely operating a vehicle and these things decrease with age for many.

Health conditions, prescription medications, hearing and vision loss, and other physical issues that affect driving are common among seniors. These could all be reasons to stop driving. If health is a concern, a physician may recommend or order that a senior surrender their license.

Some other warning signs that could indicate the time to stop driving is near:

  • Being involved in fender benders, accidents or close calls
  • Finding scrapes or dents on the car
  • Receiving traffic tickets
  • Getting lost
  • Decreasing reflexes and slower response times
  • Being more easily distracted
  • Driving too slow or too fast
  • Becoming flustered or nervous while drivingLittman Krooks Elder Law
  • Having difficulty merging into traffic, changing lanes, passing, etc.

If a loved one is beginning to exhibit any of these or other warning signs behind the wheel, it is likely time to do some serious consideration of whether or not it is safe to continue driving. You may notice that friends and family members begin to talk or joke about your loved one’s driving. If you are not able to observe their driving for yourself, it can help to enlist others who can watch for any signs.

This conversation is never an easy one to start and the suggestion to quit driving may not be well received. However, the lives of your loved one and others on the road could depend on having it. Understanding how much will change for your loved one by giving up driving and approaching the topic with sensitivity will go a long way to getting the message across.

When the situation is particularly dangerous or your loved one refuses to stop, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has resources available to help.

New York seniors have unique needs that are best served by attorneys who have extensive knowledge and experience in the area of elder law. At Littman Krooks, we have assembled an experienced team of New York elder law attorneys to help our aging clients and their families more easily deal with the legal issues they face, including estate planning, Medicaid planning, nursing home planning, guardianship, and estate administration and litigation. To learn more about how we can help, call 212-490-2020, or visit us online at

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