When is it time to stop driving?


Driving “retirement” doesn’t need to be a cold turkey process. It may look different for everyone, but proactive planning can save lives and preserve independence.

Several options can make the transition smoother for you or a loved one. Identify specific driving concerns and engage in thoughtful discussions to help preserve independence, safety, and function.

Driving is an integral part of life for many people. The loss of driving is often anxiety-inducing, increasing the risk of social isolation, depression, and unmet basic needs (especially in suburban and rural areas). Changes in driving ability due to medical conditions, changes in function, and medications should not be ignored at any age. Start the conversation about continued driving before a crisis occurs.

Make sure you or your loved one have good driving habits. Always wear a seatbelt, and avoid driving while distracted or under the influence. Contrary to popular belief, older drivers are less likely to engage in risky behaviors than teens!

There are ways you can preserve driving ability. Vision, hearing, physical agility, and cognition are essential to safe driving. Stay active by engaging in stimulating activities and regular physical exercise. Pay attention to neck mobility, hand-eye coordination, and reaction time. Hearing aids, glasses, and regular checkups with your primary care provider can help preserve these essential driving skills.

You can also complete a driving assessment to review your skills objectively. Occupational rehab programs like CarFit can both evaluate and help improve driving skills and safety. If this is unavailable, consider taking someone you trust on a drive. Ask for feedback. Does that person want to get in the car with you again? What could make the situation safer?

Be honest. Discuss things like dents, near misses, or forgetting directions to familiar places when they happen. Reviewing the situation and identifying where things went wrong can provide insight into modifying driving habits. The University of Michigan has created a great Driving Decisions Guide to help decide what changes may benefit.

Modifications could include:

🟢 Driving only during daylight
🟢 Driving only to a few known destinations
🟢 Avoiding rush hour
🟢 Driving with a trusted passenger
🟢 Using GPS tracking and map functions
🟢 Installing adaptive equipment like pedal extensions or hand controls

In most cases, you or your loved one can continue to drive with some adjustments. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to stop driving. Public transit, rideshare apps, or carpools are all great options to stay independent and mobile. Delivery services can help you obtain daily essentials like food and medications in many areas. These services do not replace social interaction and independence but are helpful tools to make driving “retirement” smoother.

Making changes to driving requires empathy and planning. Anticipate having multiple conversations about it. People grieve the loss of freedom and mobility associated with driving. Give yourself and others the time and grace needed to make changes.

By being proactive, you can help keep roads safe and preserve independence.

Stay safe, stay well.

Those Nerdy Girls

Additional resources:

AAA Senior Driver Safety & Mobility

Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety (ChORUS)

National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration

Link to Original Substack Post