Age and Driving – Do We Actually Lose Our Ability to Drive?

By | May 13, 2015

Written by Neil Graddon – May 13, 2015  What Do You Have To Know


As we age our acuity diminishes and because of this we lose our ability to make quick decisions.

If you have driven on a street where you may have a senior in close proximity in their car you will notice a few things;

  • they tend to drive slower or less than the speed limit
  • they make sudden moves without notice
  • they will actually stop at green lights
  • they hesitate to make a decision when changing lanes
  • they are not keenly aware of their surroundings

imagesDriving slower is a tendency when they are afraid. They see the people around them as the problem and not they. Everyone else is speeding and they are the perfect driver. This is a result of the loss of acuity. There eyes are not as clear as when they were younger so their depth perception is hampered. Thus, they slow down to compensate.

Making sudden moves without notice is caused by a simple unawareness of their surroundings. Most often than not they do not follow the driving protocols of checking mirrors and looking at the blind spot. So they instead veer toward where they want to be at the sake of the other drivers on the road.

Stopping at green lights may sound silly but it is prevalent with seniors who because of failing eyesight cannot distinguish what color the light really it. So rather than be sorry they play it safe and stop to make sure. Of course the result can be catastrophic as the drivers trailing them are not paying attention to the senior slowing and stopping and will cause a rear end accident.

Hesitation is symptomatic of not making decisions rapidly. Being unsure leads the senior to hesitate before actually executing a maneuver and very often this causes other drivers to react in kind and cut off the senior as they become impatient.

Overall, seniors when driving are not keenly aware of what is going on around them. Their focus is often straight ahead and they do not check what is going on around them. This often leads to poor decisions or irrational decisions that put themselves and others at risk

What can be done? images8OX6ON23

  1. Check out your health. Are you capable of handling driving safely.
  2. Make sure you have the right car for your size and driving ability – sounds obvious!
  3. Be aware and drive defensively – consider yours and everyone else’s safety.
  4. Know your limitations -change routes if you find driving in traffic agitates you.
  5. Listen to what others are telling you – it is for your own safety
  6. Re-train yourself in the rules of the road. As we get older we do forget.
  7. Try to have someone in the car with you – they can help keep you focused.
  8. Avoid impatient drivers, get out of their way. Save yourself the aggravation.

As seniors we do not want to admit our limitations. turnsignalWe still think we are 20 years old and that everyone else around us is demeaning us for our age. Well guess what. We are older and we are not able to do the things we could do when we were 20. Come to grips with that and you will find that you will be happier and you will guide yourself to do things representative of your age.




Feel free to comment on this post.  I am sure it will instill some emotion in many. Share your thoughts or stories below.


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9 thoughts on “Age and Driving – Do We Actually Lose Our Ability to Drive?

  1. brandon

    I liked the post. It’s very true and relate-able to many people. Its unfortunate that as we age we lose our senses part it is reality. on the plus as we advance soon seniors wont have to drive because there’ll be self driving cars on the market. what are your thoughts on what age seniors should be taking a driver test again?

    1. admin

      Re-taking the test does one thing that can not only help the senior but all those around them. If they fail the test they then must find alternative transport. This should help save theirs and others lives.

  2. Debra

    I was curious about this topic because I am over fifty and wonder if my reflexes are what they used to be. I feel I can personally atest to the 5 bullet points you mentioned rearly in the post.

    I have also started to incorporate the retraining you mentioned in #6, and my youngest sons often drives with me and points out things that I may over look or miss. I have really appreciated this.

  3. Gary

    I’m 62 so I don’t have (many of) those symptoms yet. But my kids (20 somethings) think I do. They complain about every single thing I do in the drivers seat. That isn’t unusual though. They are the same way in the kitchen. I remind them from time to time that the most likely car accident will happen inside the car, when I strangle one of them. 🙂

  4. Sarah

    I’m not a senior by far just yet, but I have noticed how driving is just SO different for elderly people. I wonder if it would be safer for everyone if regular driving tests were implemented every 5 years or so when we renew our licenses. I thought they used to do that when I was younger, but I have yet to have to take some other sort of exam since I got my license about 15 years ago.

    1. admin

      I have been a driver for over 40 years and never once I have been asked to re-test. But that can be a local limitation. Your point is well taken.

  5. Bill808

    As a senior, I think you are painting with a pretty broad brush. Yes our physical capabilities degrade with age, and at some point we will no longer be able to drive. Just as at some point will will die.

    Vision and mental acuity are the prime reasons a person will have to stop driving. In Hawaii, I have to have a vision test every two years when I must renew my driver’s license.

    When I was young, I was a lead footed hot-rodder. Today, I abide by the speed limits and drive defensively. I rarely stop for green lights.

    1. admin

      Thanks for your feedback. You have added to the nature of the blog with you comment about eye checks. Yes, the brush is broad but the point is intended to instill commentary

  6. Vivien

    Yes, I can understand that. As a senior, the bad vision is really a problem, driving can be stressful. It can often be more relaxing to walk, use public transit, take a taxi or ride with family or friends if possible. I always be my parents driver whenever I am available for them.

  7. Joanne

    As a caregiver for many years and now the primary caregiver for my 100 yr. old Father, I can tell you that “It Is a Problem”!

    I have seen so many mishaps caused by seniors. Living in a heavily populated area with those demographics, I find the majority of accidents by the elderly happen because they mistakingly put their foot on the gas rather than the brake. Happens a lot!

    …. but, there are still many in that age group that can drive just fine.
    I think the key here is to have a mandatory driving test (not written) every year for anyone over 80. If you were to talk to people in that category, they would probably agree as well.

    It’s awful to lose your independence, but a car is like a 2000 lb. weapon and has to have able folks behind the wheel – there is much more at stake here than the driver.
    It concerns Everyone!

  8. Damian

    Excellent article. Frankly, i think that people need to be taking a yearly, or bi-yearly driving test based on drivers these days. I think traffic incidents would be greatly reduced. It’s not just elderly people who progressively lose their ability to drive, it seems that it happens just as frequently, and possibly even worse with the younger age groups.

    1. Neil Graddon Post author

      The younger generation is easily distracted and not as focused these days. Current devices are a primary reason. There is proof that texting and driving kills yet the need to text is so overwhelming it makes people crazy.

      Another disease (well not really a disease but…..) is impatience. Everyone is in a great hurry to get to a place that will be there whether they get there in 1/2 hr or 35 minutes. Whilst I was driving to work for all those many years I could not help but wonder why people were racing to get to a job they didn’t like anyway.

      By the way this is what they called progress. People are supposed to be smarter than my generation. Not so sure about that!!

  9. Chris

    My grandfather actually drove with a full liscence until he was 89 but unfortunately they finally took it off him due to his age ( UK laws ). I can remember how gutted he was selling his prized Rover – it didn’t even have power steering as I recall! But looking back they did the right thing – his ability had definitely diminished over time. Great article by the way 🙂

  10. Eric Thompson

    Hi Neil.
    I’m split on your post about seniors and driving. I’m 67 and I don’t have most of the problems that you highlight. The people who sees me for the first time thinks I’m in my mid-50s. That is not to say I don’t have health issues. My wife is 12 years younger than me, and she loves to drive. If she saw any significant deterioration in my driving ability, she would not hesitate to tell me.

    I fully support your first statement in your post. I think that health should be the measuring stick that is used to determine whether seniors should be driving.

    Excellent job.
    See you around,

  11. Dejan

    Hello there,
    My grandma had a medical exam just recently and she passed it, meaning she was able to prolong her driving license. But a medical exam and being on a road alone are two different things. I always tell her to be careful and to just pay attention to your surroundings. I think it’s also important to have a car that is high so that you have a larger view of your surroundings. Really makes it easier to drive. Drive safely out there! Good article.

  12. Simon

    It’s rather unfortunate, but yeah – older folks should realize they’re no longer 20-something.

    I’ve noticed a lot of elderly gents having a hard time reacting accordingly to some situations on the road. But we cannot judge, as everyone will become old and grey one day (hopefully).

    Still though, young idiots who think they are racers are way worse. Don’t you think?

  13. Robert

    Thanks for this important article and informative article.

    You have brought awareness to a problem that has been long overdue. Although I am a senior living in a senior community I absolutely agree that some seniors pose a great risk to other drivers.

    I think after a certain age seniors should have to be certified to keep their license. What do you think?

    Thanks for sharing.

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