Getting older doesn't necessarily mean you should stop driving. The decision to stop driving should be a medically-informed choice that has less to do with age and more to do with your ability to drive.
Still, data shows that people over the age of 70 are the second-most likely age bracket to get into an accident (right behind drivers aged 25 and younger). And, most people tend to drive seven to 10 years longer than they should.1
Deciding to retire your steering wheel and hang up the car keys is never an easy process, but it's an important one to consider. Below are seven signs that it's time to stop driving.
1. You’re Getting More Dents and Scratches on Your Car
If you're getting into more accidents — even if they end in only a few dents, scratches, or fender benders — it might be a sign that it's time to stop driving. One or two incidents a year probably aren't cause for concern, but it's not a good sign if you're getting into minor accidents frequently.
While minor accidents might not seem like a big deal, it only takes one mistake to put yourself, your loved ones, or the people around you in danger. Also, it's expensive! When car insurance claims begin to add up, you can expect your premiums to increase. So if you're dinging your car up more than usual, it might be best to stop driving.
2. You’re Getting More Traffic Tickets
Similar to accidents, if you find yourself getting more tickets — even minor ones — it might be time to stop driving. Getting one or two tickets doesn't necessarily mean you should stop. However, when traffic citations become frequent, it might be a sign it's no longer safe to drive.
Try This: If you're still able to drive but want some added safety while you're on the road, try a medical alert device. Medical alert systems are compact, so you can take them with you wherever you go. If you get into an accident or incident on the road, you can call for help with the press of a button. Check out our guide to the best medical alert systems of 2023 for more information.
And like with increased dents and scratches, those ticket costs begin to add up! On top of paying for your tickets, you'll accumulate traffic citation points that can increase your car insurance rates and stay on your record for several years. So save your money, keep your record clean, and let go of driving if your traffic citations start increasing.
3. You’re Getting Lost or Confused While Driving
Getting confused or lost while driving can be a stressful and dangerous situation that should be avoided if possible.
You don't need to be medically diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's disease to experience forgetfulness while driving. Mild cognitive impairment is common as we get older and can lead to confusion, forgetfulness, and a decline in motor skills.
If you find yourself getting lost or asking for directions more frequently, especially in areas that should be familiar to you, it might be best to hang up your car keys. Driving in a confused or stressful state is dangerous and unsettling, so talk to a family member or doctor if you're experiencing confusion or disorientation on the road.
4. You’re Having a Hard Time Seeing on the Road
U.S. adults over the age of 40 are at greater risk for eye diseases. In fact, 6.5 million Americans over the age of 40 have some form of vision impairment.2 While some states require recurring eye tests for older Americans, it's important to be vigilant and aware of your vision on the road.
Pro Tip: Want to get your eyes checked? Visit our list of the best vision insurance for seniors.
Poor vision doesn't always mean you should stop driving — there are glasses available to help while driving — but it does mean you should speak to a family member or doctor if you're having a hard time seeing on the road.
5. You’re Experiencing Hearing Loss
Hearing isn't quite as important as seeing while driving, but it's still critical! Not being able to hear horns, trains, crosswalk sounds, and traffic-related alerts is dangerous to both you and those around you.
Pro Tip: Want to find alternatives to driving? Check out our guide on transportation for seniors. We cover everything from public transportation and rideshare services to paratransit and home care aid programs.
There's enough to pay attention to while driving as is — you don't want hearing loss to be another barrier between you and your driving ability. Hearing aids can be helpful for drivers needing assistance. If you think you might be experiencing hearing loss, visit our list of the best hearing aids.
6. Your Family Expresses Concern
It can be frustrating and anxiety-inducing when family members or loved ones express concern over a life decision, such as when you should stop driving. While your family members may not know all the facts or have the clearest understanding of your driving habits, there may be some merit to their concerns.
In most cases, if a loved one is asking you to reconsider driving, it's not because they want to take away your freedom or independence. If the people around you are expressing concern over your ability to drive, it might be worth it to check in with your doctor and evaluate whether or not driving is the best option at the moment.
7. It Physically Hurts to Drive
Whether you're struggling with arthritis, sciatica, or general pain in your major joints, you may want to avoid driving if it's painful or physically taxing. Not only is driving with muscle or joint pain unpleasant, but it also makes operating your vehicle more difficult.
Arthritis, muscle pain, and stiffness can make it harder to turn your head, operate the steering wheel, and press the brakes or gas safely. If you're experiencing such ailments, talk to your doctor to assess the best course of action.
For many adults, driving is an essential freedom that they enjoy and expect to have their entire lives. Having that freedom removed or even discussing the option of taking it away can be emotional, frustrating, and challenging for everyone involved.
But if you are having more accidents, receiving more tickets, or think you are jeopardizing your own health and well-being by staying on the road, it might be time to stop driving or at least talk to your doctor about alternatives.