Giving Up the Wheel: When is it Time to Stop Driving?

Driving for many is a symbol of freedom. When you turn sixteen and get your license you are no longer limited to how far your bike can take you, you have the ability to drive anywhere and the world feels like it is at your fingertips. As the years continue your right to drive remains, but overtime our cognitive functions and physical abilities may decrease, and we may need to take a look at whether or not we should continue driving. While driving may offer a feeling of independence, a way to stay connected with your community, and a means to participate in activities with your family, it is crucial to recognize that aging can bring forth changes that affect driving capabilities. It is important to understand the risks that arise with driving as you get older, and in this article we aim to shed light on the complexities that arise as an elderly driver as well as how to assess when it might be time to retire from driving.

Understanding the Risks

Physical Changes

Aging is something that is inevitable and is a completely unavoidable part of the human experience. As we age changes in your vision and hearing can be expected. These changes can impair your ability to notice traffic signals, pedestrians, as well as the presence of other vehicles. These changes can lead to slower reflexes and reduced response time which can make it extremely challenging to react swiftly to a sudden change in the road. Aging can also lead to the development of medical conditions such as arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, these diseases directly affect your mobility, and can make it much more difficult to control the vehicle. 

Cognitive Decline

As we age our cognitive abilities also age, and tend to slow down. Your memory, attention span, and problem solving skills are absolutely critical to drive safely. It is important that you recognize that getting older comes with cognitive decline, and can deeply affect how well you may be able to focus on a driving task, recognize and react to hazards, and navigate in an unfamiliar area. Conditions like Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can significantly impair your driving skills, and it is extremely dangerous to drive a vehicle with either of these diseases.

Assessing Driving Ability

Self Assessment

A good way to figure out whether it is time to stop driving is to do a self-evaluation. Regularly looking inward to see if you should keep driving is a great starting point. An elderly driver should ask themselves whether they feel confident in different driving situations. If you have difficulty following traffic signs or if you get easily confused while driving, it might be time to stop driving.

Feedback From Family and Friends

Sometimes it is hard for us to admit that we are getting too old to do something we once could do with ease, this is where your family and friends come in. Oftentimes, family members and close friends are the first people to notice a change in your driving abilities. Try and have an open conversation with the people in your life you care about and ask for their opinion. These conversations are essential as a loved one can provide valuable observations that might indicate that it is time to evaluate your driving capabilities more formally.

Professional Evaluation

If you are still unsure whether to keep driving after self assessment and your feedback from friends and family, consider seeking an evaluation from a professional. A driving assessment specialist or an occupational therapist trained in driver rehabilitation can provide an objective analysis of a person’s driving skills. These assessments will typically review your medical history, vision, reaction time, as well as your actual driving ability. 

The Danger of Senior Driving

One of the primary reasons to give up driving as an elderly person is due to the vast increase in danger. For every 1,000 people that are involved in an accident, senior drivers are involved in 96.61 accidents. Driving as your mental and physical abilities decrease greatly increases the likelihood that you are injured and that you may cause an accident. In 2020 alone over 200,000 people 65 and older were injured in a traffic accident, and seniors over 65 were also involved in 13% of fatal accidents in 2020 as well. Figuring out whether you should keep driving is not just important for your own well being but for all those around you.

Transitioning Away from Driving

The decision to stop driving is an extremely difficult one. Driving is so directly tied with our feelings of freedom and giving it up can be profoundly personal and emotionally challenging. The loss of driving signifies a change in independence that many fear, but it is important to focus on the positive. Now more than ever before the availability of alternative transportation options can help ease the loss of driving. Public transport, community shuttle services, ridesharing apps, and even family support are viable alternatives that can help you maintain that feeling of independence without the risks associated with driving. 

The decision regarding when to stop driving is a significant part in your life. This decision involves balancing our human desire for independence with the knowledge of safety concerns. While this decision can be difficult, taking the advice and knowledge you have learned from others is critical in your choice and possibly safety. For families navigating these discussions, it is important that you approach this topic with empathy, understanding, and support. Remember, it is not about giving up the keys but about transitioning to a new phase of life with dignity and grace. 

Here at LifeLaw Personal Injury we empathize with the difficulty of this decision, and our team of car accident lawyers understand the importance of your safety. If you or anyone you know was injured in an accident contact the best car accident lawyers today. Our team of experts will help you navigate this injury with ease so you can focus on what is important, your recovery. For the best car accident lawyers in Utah, contact LifeLaw Personal Injury today for a free consultation and to discuss your options further.