Office for the Aging


Considerations for Older Drivers, Part 2

It can be difficult to know when to talk to an older driver about safe driving, or when and how to assess your own driving skills as you age. In part two of this two part series, we'll take a look at ways you can assess driving skills, and answer some commonly-asked questions.

Are You A Safe Driver?
Maybe you already know that driving at night, on the highway, or in bad weather is a problem for you. Older drivers can also have problems when yielding the right of way, turning (especially making left turns), changing lanes, passing, and using expressway ramps.

What you can do:

  • When in doubt, don't go out. Bad weather like rain or snow can make it hard for anyone to drive. Try to wait until the weather is better, or use buses, taxis, or other transportation services available in your community.
  • Look for different routes that can help you avoid places where driving can be a problem. Left turns can be quite dangerous because you have to check so many things at the same time. You could plan routes to where you want to go so that you only need to make right turns.
  • Have your driving skills checked. There are driving programs and clinics that can test your driving and also make suggestions about improving your driving skills.
  • Update your driving skills by taking a driving refresher course. (Hint: Some car insurance companies may lower your bill when you pass this type of class.)

More Tips for Safe Driving

Planning before you leave:

  • Plan to drive on streets you know.
  • Limit your trips to places that are easy to get to and close to home.
  • Take roads that will avoid risky spots like ramps and left turns.
  • Add extra time for travel if driving conditions are bad.

  • Don't drive when you are stressed or tired.
While you are driving:
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Stay off the cell phone.
  • Avoid distractions such as eating, listening to the radio, or having conversations.
  • Make sure there is enough space behind your car. (Hint: If someone follows you too closely, slow down and pull over if needed to let that person pass you.)
  • Use your window defrosters to keep both the front and back windows clear.
  • Keep your headlights on at all times.
Car safety:
  • Drive a car with air bags.
  • Check your windshield wiper blades often and replace them when needed.
  • Keep your headlights clean and aimed in the right direction.
  • Think about getting hand controls for both the gas and brake pedals if you have leg problems.

Is It Time To Give Up Driving?
We all age differently. For this reason, there is no way to set one age when everyone should stop driving. So, how do you know if you should stop? To help you decide, ask yourself:

  • Do other drivers often honk at me?
  • Have I had some accidents, even if they are only "fender benders"?
  • Do I get lost, even on roads I know?
  • Do cars or people walking seem to appear out of nowhere?
  • Have family, friends, or my doctor said they are worried about my driving?
  • Am I driving less these days because I am not as sure about my driving as I used to be?
  • Do I have trouble staying in my lane?
  • Do I have trouble moving my foot between the gas and the brake pedals, or do I confuse the two?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to think about whether or not you are still a safe driver.

How Will You Get Around?
Are you worried that, if you stop driving, you won't be able to do the things you want and need to do? You're not alone. Many people have this concern, but there may be more ways to get around than you think. For example, some areas offer free or low-cost bus or taxi service for older people. Some communities also have carpools that you can join without a car. Religious and civic groups sometimes have volunteers who will drive you where you want to go. Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you find services in your area.

You can also think about taking taxis. Sound pricey? Don't forget -- it costs a lot to own a car. If you don't have to buy a car or pay for insurance, maintenance, gas, oil, or other car expenses, then you may be able to afford to take taxis or other public transportation. You can also help buy gas for friends or family who give you rides.

Did You Know?
This article is excerpted from the award-winning New York State Office for the Aging publication "When You Are Concerned." The entire book can be found on the NYSOFA website.