Most people want to keep driving as long as they can. It’s not easy giving up the keys—it often means a loss of independence as well as mobility. But aging brings with it many issues that can interfere with a person’s ability to drive safely. Here are a few signs that it may be time to stop driving—or at least limit your driving somewhat.
An increased number of close calls
We’ve all had close calls every so often. But if yours are happening with more frequency lately, it may be time to consider giving up driving. Keep track of the number of “almost-accidents” you have in a given period—even very minor incidents. An increased number could mean your motor skills, reflexes, eyesight, or other abilities are diminishing even if you don’t notice it on a daily basis.
Unfamiliar dents and scrapes
Concentration problems, memory issues, and reductions in motor skills, eyesight, reaction time, and other physical abilities important to driving can all contribute to making the roads less safe for older drivers.
Trouble seeing road signs and traffic lights
If you’re finding yourself having a hard time reading road signs, even with your glasses, it will definitely impair your driving skills. Be aware of how often you have to strain, squint, or even slow the car down to see traffic signs, pavement markings, traffic lights, and other important directional markers.
Have you gotten lost recently in an unfamiliar area? Even if you have a GPS system to help you navigate, being lost in your own neighborhood could be a troubling sign. This type of thing could be relatively harmless if you’re close to home and recover quickly, but it can be much more disorienting when you’re already far from home or if there’s nobody nearby you can call to come and help you get where you’re going. In addition, confusing the gas and brake pedals or other controls in your car could indicate it’s time to think about reducing your driving.
Lessened emotional control and concentrating ability
Staying in control behind the wheel often means having a certain amount of ability to manage one’s emotions. If you find you’re having episodes of “road rage,” responding to other people’s driving mistakes more violently, getting confused or easily distracted, or feeling fear or other strong emotions that lessen your control in the driver’s seat, you may be making decisions behind the wheel that could put you or other drivers at risk.
Reduced motor skills and reaction time
If you have trouble moving your foot quickly from the gas to the brake, reacting quickly to emergency situations, turning around while backing up, or performing other basic physical functions of driving, it may be a sign that it’s time to give up driving—or reducing the amount of driving you do.
Concentration problems, memory issues, and reductions in motor skills, eyesight, reaction time, and other physical abilities important to driving can all contribute to making the roads less safe for older drivers—and the people sharing the road with them. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms recently, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor—and ask about the continued safety of driving under these conditions. While it’s possible you won’t have to give up driving entirely, it’s also possible that you can keep yourself and others safer by knowing when to give up the keys.