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When to Stop Driving

Overview

TrafficIf the idea of giving up your driver’s license makes you nervous, you are not alone. Most 50+ drivers remember the day they got their license and what it meant, freedom, independence and mobility. Our cars have become extensions of ourselves taking us wherever we want, whenever we want, like a high-speed second pair of legs. 
 
There comes a time, however, when driving may no longer be an option. The decision to stop driving is never easy for the driver, his or her family, friends or caregivers. The key for a positive transition to no longer driving is PLANNING.  This page provides information and steps that will help you with this difficult transition.

Plan for Retirement from Driving
It may not be such a bad idea to no longer own a car. AAA estimates the yearly cost of driving 15,000 miles can run as high as $6,758 in a small car, $8,558 in a mid-size vehicle, $10,982 in a full-size sedan, and $11,239 in an SUV. And those costs do not include car payments!
 
Just as we plan for our financial security when we stop working, we need to plan for our transportation needs when we can no longer drive. One idea may be to develop a Retirement from Driving Plan.

Evaluate Your Driving Skills
Woman driving a pickup truckBy age 50 you may notice that you no longer feel comfortable driving on congested roadways or you limit the hours you drive at night. Research indicates that the majority of older drivers begin to restrict their driving because they recognize situations where they no longer feel safe.
 
The AARP has developed a survey to help drivers judge their skills.

Pay Attention to Warning Signs
Police officer drivingAARP provides a helpful list of warning signs indicating when it may be necessary to limit or stop driving:
  • Feeling uncomfortable and nervous or fearful while driving
  • Dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
  • Difficulty staying in the lane of travel
  • Getting lost
  • Trouble paying attention to signals, road signs and pavement markings
  • Slower response to unexpected situations
  • Medical conditions or medications affecting the ability to handle the car safely
  • Frequent "close calls" (i.e. almost crashing)
  • Trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance/exit ramps
  • Other drivers honking at you and instances when you are angry at other drivers
  • Friends or relatives not wanting to drive with you
  • Difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking straight ahead
  • Being easily distracted or having a hard time concentrating while driving
  • Having a hard time turning around to check over your shoulder while backing up or changing lanes
  • Frequent traffic tickets or "warnings" in the past year or two
AARP recommends that if you notice one or more of these warning signs you may want to have your driving assessed by a professional or attend a driver refresher class. Consult with a doctor if you are having unusual concentration or memory problems, or other physical symptoms affecting your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Refer to the Association’s Warning Signs Web page for additional information.

Related Information
Additional information that may be relevant includes:
  • DMV provides forms, brochures and training materials for their At-Risk Driver Program that may be useful.
  • NHTSA's provides a How Is Your Driving Health? brochure that includes a self-awareness checklist and tips for driving safely longer.
  • The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's Senior Driving Web site offers tools to help identify problem driving areas, including a self-rating form and screening video.
  • The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons provides a Web site about Seniors and Exercise.
  • The American Medical Association provides a self-assessment tool to help drivers determine whether they are safe behind the wheel.