When is Someone Too Old to Drive?

Older woman driving

Signs an Elderly Person is No Longer Safe to be Driving

Elderly man driving – when is too old to drive?

As our parents get older, we see the signs of struggles they face. Whether it’s memory loss or a decreased ability to get around, children of elderly parents often find themselves stepping up to help.

Caregivers often find themselves in a position of having to make tough decisions. Knowing when an aging mom or dad is getting too old to safely drive a vehicle is one of those difficult decisions you may face.

It is not always clear when a loved one’s health or mental ability is has declined enough to affect their safety behind the wheel.

When you have concerns about the safety of your elderly loved one driving, what can you do? Fortunately, there are many resources to help. Here at Mount Hope Nursing Center, we are more than just a nursing home with in-patient residents. Some of the services we provide to older persons who don’t need that level of skilled nursing care, include outpatient rehabilitation therapy, adult night care, and respite care.

Our experienced staff work with a lot of families dealing with aging loved ones who have just begun needing additional care. We know the difficult decisions families often make for the benefit of their aging loved one and can help with your questions and concerns. You can call us for a conversation and advice at (316) 667-2431.

As you deal with the changing needs of an elderly loved one, we want to provide you with information to help make decisions regarding whether they are still safe to drive.

Are Older Drivers More Dangerous?

The fact is, when just looking at the statistics, older drivers are not more dangerous. The number of people over 75 who are in accidents is comparable to younger drivers. However, this comparison isn’t necessarily reassuring as young drivers are not especially good drivers.

As we get older, it is true we become better drivers, but there are some challenges many will face. Issues with hearing loss, vision, and slowed reflexes put elderly drivers at a greater risk for problems on the road. Not only that, but they are also more vulnerable to being seriously hurt or killed in vehicle accidents. 

Here in Kansas, there is no maximum legal driver’s age. However, an elderly person may be required to undergo a driving test if family members, police officers, or doctors believe they are not safe to drive.

Roads in the town of Mount Hope, KS

Too Old to Drive? Signs You are No Longer Safe On the Road

Unfortunately knowing exactly when an older person has lost their ability to safely drive isn’t always obvious. A minor accident or traffic violation doesn’t always mean that a driver is no longer fit to be the road. But there are some clear signs of when driving is becoming too difficult for someone to do it safely.

Here are some questions to ask yourself (or for an aging person to ask themselves) to help determine how safe someone is on the road. These questions address a lot of the physical and mobility issues that older people experience that hamper one’s ability to operate a vehicle. By analyzing many of the signs, you both may come to a better understanding of what their current capability is for driving.

Questions to Determine Driving Ability: Physical Issues

    • When the windows are rolled up, can you hear a siren or a horn?
    • Can you see clearly over the steering wheel?
    • Can you turn your head and neck enough to see over your shoulder?
    • Can you drive for 30 minutes without your fingers or arms becoming tingly or numb?
    • Can you sit for at least 15 minutes without your feet or legs becoming tingly or numb?
    • Do you always use your right foot to push the brake pedal?

Answering NO to one or a few questions does not necessarily mean that a person is no longer fit to drive. But if you did answer NO to any, that elderly driver should visit their doctor to address any of the physical issues they are dealing with. For a list of even more questions like this, check out Sedgwick County’s Mini-Self Assessment of Driving Ability.

Health conditions aren’t the only thing that can cause older adults to become dangerous drivers. You may want to discuss their experiences while driving, and see if there have been any changes. Here are some other good questions to ask in determining driving safety:

Older woman driving

Questions to Determine Driving Ability: Changes on the Road

    • Do more people honk at you?
    • Does it seem like everyone else is driving too fast?
    • Do some cars seem to “come out of nowhere” and surprise you?
    • Do intersections seem overwhelming?
    • Do you forget how to drive to familiar places?

How to Help an Unsafe Driver

If you are worried an elderly person in your life is too old to drive safely, there are several steps you can take. The first thing you should do is speak with them.

They may not realize that there is a problem. You may need to kindly inform them of what you’ve identified as safety concerns. Perhaps other loved ones in their lives can also speak to them about this so that they understand this is more than just your opinion.

Click here for a helpful guide on how to have the conversation of safety issues with older drivers.

Giving up the independence of driving yourself can be difficult for some. It’s not easy to admit something has become too difficult to do. Sometimes an elderly person may be dealing with dementia or other cognitive issues that make it difficult for them to understand that there is a problem. In that case, you may need to seek outside assistance.

Kansas Highway Patrol logoThe Kansas Highway Patrol provides a way for you to notify them of a driver who may be no longer able to safely operate a vehicle. You can do this by sending a letter to Driver Review.

Driver Review, Department of Revenue
915 SW Harrison
Room 100
Topeka, KS 66626

Alternative Transportation for People Who Can No Longer Drive

Not being able to drive will make it difficult for your loved one to go everywhere they need or want to go. One important thing you may be able to do is to help an elderly person find alternative ways to get around.

Consider all the places they have to go – the grocery store, the doctor, the pharmacy. Beyond those necessary trips, also consider the places they go that contribute to their quality of life. Do they like to go out to restaurants? Perhaps they attend a book club, a church group, or other social gathering.

Depending on the area you live, whether it’s a large city or a small town, there may be a variety of alternative transportation options available to them, including:

  • Buses
  • Taxis
  • Personal drivers
  • Shuttle buses
  • Uber or Lift services

Transportation Help for Elderly in the Wichita Area

While here in our small town of Mount Hope we do not have many public transit options, you will find more populated areas like Wichita, Hutchinson and even Newton do provide most or all of these options.

The City of Wichita provides a special transporation service just for disabled people. Paratransit is an ADA-compliant service available for people with physical or cognitive disabilities. These are wheelchair-accessible vans with drivers who are specially trained to provide this service. You will need to apply for Wichita’s paratransit services which you can do at this link.

If you live outside of Wichita city limits yet here in Sedgwick County, you may be eligible to take advantage of the county’s special transportation for elderly residents. This service is designed to help older persons dealing with situations like hearing or speech issues, oxygen use, memory issues, walking issues or inability.

For people in Mount Hope, Cheney, Andale and other rural areas of Sedgwick County can use this application to apply for this affordable transportation service.

Get Help from Elderly Care Professionals

Guide to Alternative Care for Elderly

If you have a loved one who is facing struggles with such tasks as driving, handling financial decisions or taking care of day-to-day tasks, it may be time to start thinking about options for additional care. They may not be ready for a nursing home, but they still may need some level of additional assistance.

There are many types of care beyond moving into a nursing home. Learn about the different types of elderly care that may be perfect for your situation. You can find assessment checklists to determine what options your loved one could benefit from in this Elderly Care Guide.

If you need help or have any questions, call us at Mount Hope Nursing Center. We are here to help. From elderly care costs to understanding all the options available to you, we are happy to support you in any way we can. You can reach us by calling (316) 667-2431 or contact us online.

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