Driving After Age 65

As you age, your driving ability declines. If you still have the strength to participate in traffic, take precautions and use these tips to drive safely.

No matter how well we maintain ourselves, the passage of time is inexorable and gradually limits our physical and mental abilities. Faced with this reality, which we all struggle against, we must be aware of our limitations in performing certain activities and give them up if necessary. As much as it hurts, one of these is driving a car.

Until then, of course, you can continue to participate in road traffic, but if you are one of the older adults getting behind the wheel, you must take precautions for your safety and the safety of others.

How age affects your ability to drive?

We live longer and healthier, yet the aging process irrevocably deteriorates our mobility, senses, or thinking abilities. When an older person participates in road traffic, impaired driving ability manifests itself in reduced visual acuity to recognize signs, impaired reflexes when a maneuver needs to be performed quickly, inability to calculate vehicle braking distance, or difficulty parking because of having to look behind.

High blood pressure, rheumatic diseases, cataracts, diabetes, or cardiovascular problems are common diseases in this population whose treatment or symptoms can affect driving ability.

In addition, there is the occurrence of ailments or chronic diseases typical of advanced age that also require medication, which can adversely affect driving. If this is the case for you, you should always consider this before taking the car.

When to stop driving when you are older?

There is no specific age at which you can stop holding a driver’s license, but authorities usually shorten the validity period of a driver’s license starting at age 65. This is the case in Argentina, where the driver’s license is renewed every three years from the age of 65 and every five years from the age of 70.

This does not mean that you should stop driving at this age if you are healthy or will drive worse than a younger person, but your health is important to pay attention to.

There are some clues as to when you should leave your car for good. Here are a few:

  • Others tell you: If your doctor or family suggests you stop driving, it is because they have noticed that you are having trouble driving safely. Listen to them.
  • Difficulty seeing or hearing signals: Sight and hearing are the most important senses while driving, so if they fail, you better stop.
  • Disorientation: If you often get lost or can’t remember the route after you’ve traveled, it may be due to a deterioration in cognitive skills.
  • Persistent forgetfulness: accidentally missing road signs, turning without warning, and wrong turns are some of the alarm signals that indicate you should stop driving for everyone’s safety.
  • Frequent bumps: Bumps or scrapes are usually a sign that you are misjudging space or not circulating properly.
  • Medication or serious illness: If you are taking medications that do not allow you to drive or notice the first signs of a serious illness such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or dementia, it is better to take public transportation.

Check your health status if you are an adult behind the wheel

Since there is no age to stop driving, a medical examination is the only way to determine whether a person is fit to drive a vehicle. This involves checking the sensory, motor, and cognitive conditions to determine whether a person can get behind the wheel.

However, drivers are only required to undergo a health checkup when they want to renew their papers so several years may pass between one checkup and the next. Elderly drivers are advised to undergo such a checkup at least once a year.

For such a medical examination to be effective, it must focus on at least three aspects of the patient’s health:

The senses: vision and hearing deteriorate with age; diseases such as cataracts or partial deafness are common. Deterioration of vision manifests itself while driving in problems recognizing objects on the road and road signs, reduced peripheral vision, difficulty adjusting to too much light, or poor perception of distance from other vehicles.

Hearing loss, in turn, leads to confusion in very noisy places or difficulty distinguishing the origin of sounds.

Perception: Road traffic requires a high degree of concentration and the ability to react to the unexpected. However, some studies show that older drivers have much longer reaction times.

Movements and joints: As we age, the human body’s ability to move decreases, loses speed in performing movements, and becomes less flexible. This means that when we get behind the wheel of a vehicle, we are less agile in changing direction or looking sideways.

Tips for older drivers

It is not easy to give up a habit like driving. But as you age, you need to be aware of your physical and mental limitations behind the wheel.

Whether it’s your case or that of someone you know, here are some tips for older drivers to make their trips on the road safer:

  1. Listen to your family: trust their recommendations, as they only want to help you.
  2. Take short trips where you know the route, and it’s easy.
  3. If you drive long distances, take at least a 15-minute break for every hour you drive.
  4. Drive during the day and avoid inclement weather, poor visibility, or dangerous terrain.
  5. Use items that make driving easier, such as rearview mirrors with peripheral vision, buttons to help you move the steering wheel, or electronic devices to help you park.
  6. If possible, always be accompanied by someone to act as a co-pilot.
  7. Do not perform risky maneuvers or complicated overtaking maneuvers.
  8. Have medical examinations at least once a year.
  9. If you change cars, choose a functional model you are comfortable with that makes handling the vehicle as easy as possible.
  10. Participate in recycling and driving courses for seniors.