Difficulty hearing the sounds of the roadway, including sirens, horns honking, and cars passing.
Repeatedly hitting curbs or parking lot fixtures when you are trying to park your car.
Discomfort or pain when lifting your leg up from or pressing down on the gas or brake pedal.
Experiencing confusion while operating your car, especially between the gas and brake pedals.
Difficulty seeing things clearly while driving, such as road signs, landmarks, lines on the road, pedestrian crossings, animals, people, etc.
Other drivers are bothered by your driving habits on a fairly regular basis, honking their horns or making angry gestures at you.
Finding it increasingly difficult to stay inside car lanes, drifting from lane to lane, or straddling the line between two lanes.
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Tending to drive at a significantly slower speed than the posted speed limit and/or the general flow of traffic.
Misjudging distances between cars or before traffic lights and stop signs.
Receiving warnings and/or tickets from police for driving infractions.
Inability to freely turn your neck and shoulders enough to see oncoming traffic at an intersection or while merging on to a roadway.
Going through red lights or stop signs because you could not stop in time.
Feeling more and more agitated and/or nervous when you drive.
Forgetting to use the turn signal or forgetting to turn it off.
Noticing an increase incar damage, including the number of minor scrapes and dents on your car.
Becoming lost or disoriented more often when driving, especially in areas that should be familiar.
Becoming distracted or confused frequently when behind the wheel.
Getting behind the wheel of a car to drive can feel as natural as sitting at the kitchen table for a meal. For long-time drivers, it is hard to image never doing it again. But, if we live long enough, most of us will probably come to a point when it is time to hang up the car keys and leave the driving to someone else. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, the average American now lives about 10 years beyond their ability to drive safely.
There is no definitive, clear-cut age when someone should stop driving. People age differently. Many people are able to drive safely well into their “seasoned” years, but others experience changes that can jeopardize the ability to do so safely. Some of us may need to make adjustments in order to continue driving safely – such as only driving during daylight hours or only close to home – or we may have to stop altogether.
Of course, it is usually a whole lot easier to tell when someone else should stop driving than it is to realize the time has come in our own lives. The decision to stop driving is never simple or straightforward. It is very common to miss the signs that our ability to drive has diminished, and it is very tempting not to look for those signs.
It is perfectly understandable to worry about and dread giving up something that is so instrumental to our independence. Driving provides freedom. It keeps us mobile. Many older people do not have access to other transportation options. We may not live close to public transportation or have family members nearby who can easily take us wherever we need or want to go.
Fortunately, there are services in most areas of the United States to help older people who are no longer able to drive. There are free senior shuttle services, low-cost bus and taxi services, volunteer organizations that provide drivers, as well as other resources. Some grocery markets and pharmacies offer delivery services, which can be very helpful. Your local senior center or public library will be able to help you find resources in your neighborhood.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that drivers in their later “seasoned” years cause more crash-related deaths than any other age group of drivers except teens. Nobody ever wants to have done something while behind the wheel of a car that results in someone else being injured or worse. That’s why it is crucial that we be vigilant and realistic about our ability to drive as we get older. We must each take responsibility for ourselves and make the difficult decision when it needs to be made.
How do we know when the time has come to hang up the car keys? Well, we have to trust the opinions of our doctors, loved ones, and friends. And we must pay attention to the warning signs, like those listed below, that may indicate it is no longer safe to be behind the wheel.