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When should elderly drivers step on the brakes?

As drivers get older, disease, disability, and the natural progression of aging may severely limit their ability to drive. This is not always the case - often, older drivers remain fully capable of operating a motor vehicle competently and safely. But sometimes elderly drivers can pose a serious threat, to themselves and others, of car accidents, injury, and even death.

Certainly, there is no universal age or condition that dictates when an elderly driver should get out from behind the wheel. This means that the decision to stop driving must usually be made by the driver or a member of his or her family. Every year, approximately 600,000 U.S. drivers limit or stop all driving activity voluntarily. But for many others, especially those for whom driving represents a sort of independence, the decision to stop driving is not made easily.

It can be difficult to determine whether an elderly driver's ability to drive (or lack thereof) creates a danger on the road. To help families with this decision, AARP recently published a list of signs that indicate when it may be time to stop driving.

  • The driver feels nervous, uncomfortable, or afraid while driving
  • The driver has trouble staying in their lane of traffic
  • The driver frequently becomes lost or confused
  • The driver is displaying a delayed reaction time, especially in unexpected situations
  • The driver's vehicle has unexplained dents and scrapes
  • The driver is physically unable to move and turn in the vehicle in order to check their mirrors and blind spot
  • Medications or medical conditions dictate that the driver should not operate a motor vehicle

Of course, every family knows what is best for their loved ones, and only they can determine whether continuing to drive factors in to that equation.

Source: Washington Times, "Getting behind the wheel when you are older," Laurie Edwards-Tate, Sept. 28, 2011

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