Being able to drive one’s own vehicle is often perceived as a measure of independence among older Americans. It is, therefore, rare that someone who is advancing in age is eager to hang up their keys in favor of alternative forms of transportation. Yet, most older drivers understand that it’s important to only remain on the road for as long as doing so is safe.
It isn’t always easy to know when to stop driving. On the one hand, the ability to travel independently and at will is very important for many individuals. On the other hand, if remaining on the road places a motorist and those around them at an increasingly unreasonable risk of motor vehicle accidents, it is likely time to adjust one’s approach to transportation. Interestingly, recent guidance suggests that there is no single age at which motorists should stop driving. Instead, they need to objectively assess their fitness to remain on the road.
Age vs. fitness
Individuals respond to the aging process in different ways and at different rates. It is, therefore, unreasonable to treat all people of a specific age in the same way. As a result, older drivers should not be pressured to hang up their keys simply because their birthday cakes are crowded with candles. Instead, both motorists and concerned loved ones should be attentive to the development of any signs that it may be time to stop driving.
If a motorist’s reaction time, vision, and hearing are becoming compromised, they may start feeling understandably nervous when they get behind the wheel. They may also start having more “close calls.” If older adults aren’t sure of whether they are in a position to keep driving, attending a reputable AARP driver safety course in-person or online can be helpful in educating them about what their capacity and expectations should be.
Thinking critically about an older motorist’s ability to remain safe on the road is important when trying to avoid an unreasonably increased risk of suffering and/or causing harm due to accidents. It’s also important when trying to avoid liability for crashes that should generally be avoidable.