Older Drivers

Overview

If you are an older driver or a caregiver, NHTSA encourages you to talk about driving safety. We offer material to help you understand how aging can affect driving and what you can do to continue driving safely as you age, such as adapting a vehicle to meet specific needs.

The Topic

Older Driver Safety

If You’re a Family Caregiver: Considerations before talking to an older driver

Resource The Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety (ChORUS) offers comprehensive resources for caregivers, older drivers, medical professionals, highway engineers, motor vehicle administrators and more. Learn More About ChORUS

Getting older does not necessarily mean a person's driving days are over. But it’s important to plan ahead and take steps to ensure the safety of your loved ones on the road. NHTSA offers free material to help you learn more about how to recognize and discuss changes in your older loved one's driving.

If you think you need to have a conversation with an older driver about his or her driving abilities, remember that many older drivers look at driving as a form of independence. Bringing up the subject of their driving abilities can make some drivers defensive. So, be prepared with your observations and questions, and—if necessary—provide possible transportation alternatives. 

Answering the following questions may help you decide if you need to initiate a conversation with an older driver about driving safely:

  • Getting lost on routes that should be familiar?
  • Noticing new dents or scratches to the vehicle?
  • Receiving a ticket for a driving violation?
  • Experiencing a near-miss or crash recently?
  • Being advised to limit/stop driving due to a health reason?
  • Overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving?
  • Taking any medication that might affect driving safely?
  • Speeding or driving too slowly for no reason?
  • Suffering from any illnesses that may affect driving skills?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might need to talk with your loved one about safe driving. First, learn how to understand and influence older drivers, and consider printing and sharing these tips on talking about driving with an older driver (PDF, 363 KB).

If You’re an Older Driver: Assessing How Changes Can Affect Your Driving

Some of the changes you experience as you get older can affect your ability to drive safely. The good news is that people who keep track of changes in their eyesight, physical fitness, and reflexes may be able to adjust their driving habits so they stay safe on the road.

The following questions will help you decide if physical changes have affected your driving skills. Helpful tips about coping with these changes are also provided so that you can remain a safe driver for as long as possible.

Do you have trouble…

  • Reading signs easily?
  • Recognizing someone you know from across the street?
  • Seeing street markings, other cars, and people walking—especially at dawn, dusk and at night?
  • Handling headlight glare at night?

If you said “Yes” to any of these questions, you should…

  • Make sure you always wear your glasses and that the prescription is current.
  • Keep your windshield, mirrors and headlights clean.
  • Make sure that your headlights are working and aimed correctly.
  • Sit high enough in your seat so you can see the road at least 10 feet in front of your vehicle.
  • If you are 60 or older, see an eye doctor every year.

Loss of strength, coordination and flexibility can make it hard to control your vehicle.

Do you have trouble…

  • Looking over your shoulder to change lanes?
  • Moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal?
  • Turning the steering wheel?
  • Walking less than a block a day?
  • Going up or down stairs because you have pain in your knees, legs or ankles?

If you said “Yes” to any of these questions, you should…

  • Check with your doctor about physical therapy, medicine, stretching exercises, or a walking or fitness program.
  • Know that an automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, and other special equipment can make it easier for you to drive your vehicle and use the foot pedals.
  • Reduce your driver’s side blind spot by moving your mirrors.
  • Watch for flashing lights of emergency vehicles.
  • Listen for sounds outside your vehicle.

Do you…

  • Feel confused by traffic signs, and people and cars in traffic?
  • Take medicine that makes you sleepy?
  • Get dizzy, or have seizures or losses of consciousness?
  • React slowly to normal driving situations?

If you said “Yes” to any of these questions, you should…

  • Ask your doctor if your health or side effects from your medicine can affect your driving.
  • Take routes that you know.
  • Try to drive during the day (avoid rush hour).
  • Keep a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you.
  • Always scan the road while you are driving so that you are ready for any problems and can plan your actions.

Sometimes other people notice things about your driving that you might have missed. Have people you know and trust said they were concerned about your driving?

If you said “Yes” to any of these questions, you should…

  • Talk with your doctor. Ask him or her to check the side effects of any medicines you are taking.
  • Think about taking a mature driving class. The AAA, AARP and driving schools offer these classes.
  • Try walking, carpooling, public transit, and other forms of transportation.

If you drive with children or young adults, you carry an extra responsibility.

When used the correct way, car seats and seat belts offer the best protection for children and adults who are traveling in motor vehicles. All 50 States, as well as Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, require that children be properly secured in a car seat or seat belt, as appropriate for their age and size. Most States also require that motorists and adult passengers be properly buckled in a seat belt.

Although the vehicle user manual and car seat instructions will provide the best information, the following guidelines will help you to decide if the young people you are transporting are traveling safely. And don’t forget, the back seat is the safest place for children 12 and under in a vehicle.

  • Birth to 12 Months – Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
  • 1 to 3 Years – Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
  • 4 to 7 Years – Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
  • 8 to 12 Years – Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

To have your car seat inspected by a certified technician, visit www.safercar.gov/cpsApp/cps/index.htm.

For many older adults, driving is a sign of independence. While most senior citizens want to keep driving for as long as they can, no one wants to be a threat to themselves or to others because they are no longer able to drive safely. Self-awareness—both physical and mental—is the key to preserving independence and to driving safely.

Don’t forget:

When you are driving or riding in car, always wear your seat belt. Make sure that every person who is riding with you is also buckled up.

Many thanks to the USAA Educational Foundation for their assistance in developing this resource.

The Topic

What You Can Do

If You’re a Family Caregiver: Talking About Driving With an Older Driver

Talking with an older person about their driving is often difficult. Most of us delay that talk until the person’s driving has become what we believe to be dangerous. At that point, conversations can be tense and awkward for everyone involved. But there are things you can say and do to make those conversations more productive and less tense.

Learning How to Understand and Influence Older Drivers​ will help you support an older driver’s needs, as well as finding community resources that can help put your older-driver plan into action. If you have decided to initiate a conversation with an older loved one about driving safely, take these three steps:

  1. Collect information;
  2. Develop a plan of action; and
  3. Follow through on the plan.

You might also want to consider learning how to adapt a motor vehicle to accommodate the unique needs of an older driver (PDF, 629 KB) and discussing it with your loved one.

If You’re an Older Driver: Tips to Drive Safely While Aging Gracefully

Did you know? Some State departments of motor vehicles place restrictions on drivers once they reach a certain age. Find out whether your State defines “Older Drivers” at certain age, and what that means for driver’s license renewal and restrictions, including tests. Key Provisions of State Laws Pertaining to Driver Licensing Requirements 301.87 KB

Decisions about your ability to drive should never be based on age alone. However, changes in vision, physical fitness and reflexes may cause safety concerns. By accurately assessing age-related changes, you can adjust your driving habits to remain safe on the road or choose other kinds of transportation.

If you’ve noticed changes in your vision, physical fitness, attention and reaction time, it’s important to keep alert to how these changes may be affecting your ability to drive safely. Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully is a resource developed by the USAA Educational Foundation, AARP and NHTSA to help you recognize warning signs and pick up useful tips on what you can do to remain a safe driver.  

One way to stay safe while driving is by making sure you understand how medical conditions can impact your ability to drive safely. Another way is by adapting your motor vehicle (PDF, 629 KB) to make sure it fits you properly, as well as choosing appropriate features, installing and knowing how to use adaptive devices, and practicing good vehicle maintenance.

The Topic

Medical Conditions

If you are an older driver with a medical condition, or if you are a concerned caregiver, NHTSA has several resources for safer driving. 

These resources will help you learn how medical conditions can affect driving, what to do if you're experiencing or witnessing certain warning signs, and where to learn more about medical conditions. These resources also provide information about transportation alternatives and how to get help with transportation.

Information on Driving with Medical Conditions

The Topic

Videos

NHTSA has many online resources to help older drivers learn how to best drive with certain conditions. Browse our selection of YouTube videos, starting with an Introduction to Medically At-Risk Driving and How to Adapt Your Vehicle

YouTube Videos About Driving with Medical Conditions

NHTSA also offers YouTube videos to help law enforcement cite and refer medically impaired drivers and State departments of motor vehicles screen for medically at-risk drivers.

The Topic

For Professionals

Caregiving

Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety. Comprehensive website that addresses the resource and infrastructure needs of an aging population of drivers. ChORUS is provided by the Roadway Safety Foundation, with support from the Federal Highway Administration and NHTSA.

Clinician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers (PDF, 10.52 MB). Guide published in 2016 and developed by the American Geriatrics Society in cooperation with NHTSA helps healthcare professionals prevent motor vehicle crashes and injury to older adults. The guide assists clinicians in assessing older drivers at risk of crashes and counseling older drivers to help enhance their driving safety. Resources for easing the transition to driving retirement when necessary are also available.

Drive Well Toolkit: Promoting Older Driver Safety and Mobility in Your Community (PDF, 4.69 KB). Toolkit developed by the American Society on Aging (ASA) and NHTSA equips people working directly with older adults to understand the issues related to older drivers and later-life independence and mobility; plan and implement public information events for older drivers, their families and loved ones, and other community members and organizations; and more.

Driving Transitions Education Tools, Scripts, and Practice Exercises (PDF, 1.58 MB) – Educational module published in 2009 assists professionals with helping older adults, their families, and concerned community members who are dealing with driver safety and community mobility issues. Social workers, senior center staff members, area agencies on aging, case managers, and healthcare professionals can benefit from this module.

Identifying Behaviors and Situations Associated with Increased Crash Risk for Older Drivers (PDF, 5.18 MB) – Report published in 2009 reviews literature and analyzes data to identify specific driving behaviors (performance errors), and combinations of driver, vehicle, and roadway/environmental characteristics associated with increased crash involvement by older drivers.

Intersection Crashes Among Drivers in Their 60s, 70s, and 80s (PDF, 150 KB). Paper published in 2011 contains data from 2002 – 2006 and reveals specific performance errors and combinations of driver, vehicle, and roadway/environmental characteristics associated with older drivers’ crashes at intersections.

Key Provisions of State Laws Pertaining to Older Driver Licensing Requirements (PDF, 301.87 KB). Chart published in 2014 provides State-defined “older driver age,” restrictions on licensing renewal, and other information pertaining to older driver licensing.

Licensing Procedures for Older Drivers (PDF, 1.23 MB). Report published in 2013 examines the driver licensing procedures in all 50 States as they apply to the older (65+) driver.

Medical Review Process and License Disposition of Drivers Referred by Law Enforcement and Other Sources in Virginia (PDF, 2.44 MB). Report published in 2011 describes a surge of medically and functionally at-risk drivers (Boomers) and a review of the referral process that brings medically at-risk drivers to the attention of licensing authorities.

Traffic Safety Facts: Older Population (PDF, 6.10 KB). Fact sheet published in 2017 contains information on fatal motor vehicle crashes and fatalities based on 2015 data.

Medicine

Fact Sheets

Cardiovascular Disease: Fact Sheet for Medical Professionals (PDF, 83 KB). Any situation that results in a loss of consciousness or causes dizziness or similar problems can affect driver safety.

Cognitive Conditions: Fact Sheet for Medical Professionals (PDF, 113 KB). Cognitive conditions include distraction or disorientation while driving; delay in timely response to changes in traffic conditions, hazards, and emergencies; and delay in timely response to changes in traffic conditions, traffic hazards, and emergencies.

Dementia: Fact Sheet for Medical Professionals (PDF, 87 KB). The determining factor in withdrawing driving privileges is driving ability and the amount and type of driving exposure.

Diabetes: Fact Sheet for Medical Professionals (PDF, 87 KB). The average driver with diabetes has a statistically significant (19%) increase in risk for a motor vehicle collision compared to people without diabetes.

Functional Conditions: Fact Sheet for Medical Professionals (PDF, 99.76 KB). Functional conditions can result in momentary loss of control of the vehicle; inability to safely control the vehicle's lane position and turning motion; and delay in responding to changing traffic control devices or conditions. 

Physical Limitations: Fact Sheet for Medical Professionals (PDF, 86 KB). Physical limitations include pain and decreases in motor strength or physical functioning that can affect driver safety.

Seizures: Fact Sheet for Medical Professionals (PDF, 87 KB). The number of fatal driver crashes related to seizures is small. Some seizure types, such as simple partial seizures that do not interfere with consciousness or motor control and seizures that are unlikely to occur while driving, are unlikely to have an impact on driver safety.

Sleep Disorders: Fact Sheet for Medical Professionals (PDF, 84 KB). Evidence indicates OSA increases crash risk, and CPAP is the only treatment demonstrated to reduce crash risk.

Visual Impairment: Fact Sheet for Medical Professionals (PDF, 87 KB). Drivers with visual impairment are more likely to make errors in identifying signs at a distance. Other aspects of the roadway environment such as lane markings may also be difficult to see. 

Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety. Comprehensive website that addresses the resource and infrastructure needs of an aging population of drivers. ChORUS is provided by the Roadway Safety Foundation, with support from the Federal Highway Administration and NHTSA.

Clinician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers (PDF, 10.52 MB). Guide published in 2016 and developed by the American Geriatrics Society in cooperation with NHTSA helps healthcare professionals prevent motor vehicle crashes and injury to older adults. The guide assists clinicians in assessing older drivers at risk of crashes and counseling older drivers to help enhance their driving safety. Resources for easing the transition to driving retirement when necessary are also available.

Drive Well Toolkit: Promoting Older Driver Safety and Mobility in Your Community  (PDF, 4.69 KB). Toolkit developed by The American Society on Aging (ASA) and NHTSA supports people working directly with older adults to understand the issues related to older drivers and later-life independence and mobility; plan and implement public information events for older drivers, their families and loved ones, and other community members and organizations; and more.

Driver Fitness Medical Guidelines (PDF, 1.12 MB) – Guide published in 2009 provides information on how to determine whether someone is fit to drive, based on certain medical issues or scenarios.

Driving Transitions Education Tools, Scripts, and Practice Exercises (PDF, 1.58 MB) – Educational module published in 2009 assists professionals with helping older adults, their families, and concerned community members who are dealing with driver safety and community mobility issues. Social workers, senior center staff members, area agencies on aging, case managers, and healthcare professionals can benefit from this module.

Evaluating Older Drivers’ Skills (PDF, 1.11 MB) – Report published in 2013 helps guide future research by highlighting tools and methods commonly used by clinicians that have not yet been adequately evaluated and those which may already be recommended for use.

Identifying Behaviors and Situations Associated with Increased Crash Risk for Older Drivers (PDF, 5.18 MB) – Report published in 2009 reviews literature and analyzes data to identify specific driving behaviors (performance errors), and combinations of driver, vehicle, and roadway/environmental characteristics associated with increased crash involvement by older drivers.

Key Provisions of State Laws Pertaining to Older Driver Licensing Requirements (PDF, 301.87 KB) – Chart provides State-defined “older driver age,” restrictions on licensing renewal, and other information pertaining to older driver licensing.

Multiple Medications and Vehicle Crashes: Analysis of Database (PDF, 4.24 MB) – Report published in 2008 analyzes the association of the impairing effects of multiple medication use, drug interactions, and drug disease interactions on motor vehicle crashes in individuals age 50 years and greater, based on population databases.

Law Enforcement

BAC and Crash Responsibility of Injured Older Drivers: An Analysis of Trauma Center Data (PDF, 1.41 MB). Report published in 2014 about the distribution of blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) in injured drivers 65 and older and the relationship of older-driver BAC to driving record and crash responsibility.

Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety. Comprehensive website that addresses the resource and infrastructure needs of an aging population of drivers. ChORUS is provided by the Roadway Safety Foundation, with support from the Federal Highway Administration and NHTSA.

Intersection Crashes Among Drivers in Their 60s, 70s, and 80s (PDF, 150 KB). Paper published in 2011 about data from 2002 – 2006 revealing specific performance errors and combinations of driver, vehicle, and roadway/environmental characteristics associated with older drivers’ crashes at intersections.

Key Provisions of State Laws Pertaining to Older Driver Licensing Requirements (PDF, 301.87 KB). Chart provides State-defined “older driver age,” restrictions on licensing renewal, and other information pertaining to older driver licensing.

Medical Review Process and License Disposition of Drivers Referred by Law Enforcement and Other Sources in Virginia (PDF, 2.44 MB). Report published in 2011 on a surge of medically and functionally at-risk drivers (Boomers) and a review of the referral process that brings medically at-risk drivers to the attention of licensing authorities.
 

Traffic Safety

Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety. Comprehensive website that addresses the resource and infrastructure needs of an aging population of drivers. ChORUS is provided by the Roadway Safety Foundation, with support from the Federal Highway Administration and NHTSA.

Drive Well Toolkit: Promoting Older Driver Safety and Mobility in Your Community (PDF, 4.69 KB). Toolkit developed by the American Society on Aging (ASA) and NHTSA equips people working directly with older adults to understand the issues related to older drivers and later-life independence and mobility; plan and implement public information events for older drivers, their families and loved ones, and other community members and organizations; and more.

Driving Transitions Education Tools, Scripts, and Practice Exercises (PDF, 1.58 MB). Educational module published in 2009 assists professionals with helping older adults, their families, and concerned community members who are dealing with driver safety and community mobility issues. Social workers, senior center staff members, area agencies on aging, case managers, and healthcare professionals can benefit from this module.

Intersection Crashes Among Drivers in Their 60s, 70s, and 80s (PDF, 150 KB). Paper published in 2011 contains data from 2002 – 2006 and reveals specific performance errors and combinations of driver, vehicle, and roadway/environmental characteristics associated with older drivers’ crashes at intersections.

Key Provisions of State Laws Pertaining to Older Driver Licensing Requirements (PDF, 301.87 KB). Chart published in 2014 provides State-defined “older driver age,” restrictions on licensing renewal, and other information pertaining to older driver licensing.

Licensing Procedures for Older Drivers (PDF, 1.23 MB). Report published in 2013 examines the driver licensing procedures in all 50 States as they apply to the older (65+) driver.

Medical Review Process and License Disposition of Drivers Referred by Law Enforcement and Other Sources in Virginia (PDF, 2.44 MB). Report published in 2011 describes a surge of medically and functionally at-risk drivers (Boomers) and a review of the referral process that brings medically at-risk drivers to the attention of licensing authorities.

Traffic Safety Facts: Older Population (PDF, 6.10 KB). Fact sheet published in 2017 contains information on fatal motor vehicle crashes and fatalities based on 2015 data.

Traffic Safety for Older People – 5-Year Plan (PDF, 479 KB). Report published in 2013 provides a 5-year plan for NHTSA’s activities to address traffic safety concerns of older people.

Uniform Guidelines for State Highway Safety Programs (PDF, 477 KB). Guidelines on older driver safety published in 2014 are based on best practices around the country, including countermeasures that can be implemented to ensure the safety of older drivers.

Research

A Pilot Study to Test Multiple Medication Usage and Driving Function (PDF, 6.24 MB). Report published in 2008 about the relationship between polypharmacy and driving functioning through separate but related research activities.

BAC and Crash Responsibility of Injured Older Drivers: An Analysis of Trauma Center Data (PDF, 1.41 MB). Report published in 2014 about the distribution of blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) in injured drivers 65 and older and the relationship of older-driver BAC to driving record and crash responsibility.

Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety. New and comprehensive web site that addresses the resource and infrastructure needs of an aging population of drivers. ChORUS is provided by the Roadway Safety Foundation, with support from the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Evaluating Older Drivers’ Skills (PDF, 1.11 MB). Report published in 2013 helps guide future research by highlighting tools and methods commonly used by clinicians that have not yet been adequately evaluated and those which may already be recommended for use.

Functional Assessments, Safety Outcomes, and Driving Exposure Measures for Older Drivers (PDF, 1.63 MB). Report published in 2012 provides an objective measure of the relationship between older adults’ scores on a set of driving assessment tools and their (serious point) violations and crashes over a period of 18 months following the assessments.

Identifying Behaviors and Situations Associated with Increased Crash Risk for Older Drivers (PDF, 5.18 MB). Report published in 2009 reviews literature and analyzes data to identify specific driving behaviors (performance errors), and combinations of driver, vehicle, and roadway/environmental characteristics associated with increased crash involvement by older drivers.

Identifying Countermeasure Strategies to Increase Safety of Older Pedestrians (PDF, 1.1 MB). Report published in 2013 aims to identify appropriate countermeasures that will reduce older pedestrians’ exposure to injuries and fatal crashes.

Intersection Crashes Among Drivers in Their 60s, 70s, and 80s (PDF, 150 KB). Paper published in 2011 about data from 2002 – 2006 revealing specific performance errors and combinations of driver, vehicle, and roadway/environmental characteristics associated with older drivers’ crashes at intersections.

Key Provisions of State Laws Pertaining to Older Driver Licensing Requirements (PDF, 301.87 KB). Chart provides State-defined “older driver age,” restrictions on licensing renewal, and other information pertaining to older driver licensing.

Licensing Procedures for Older Drivers (PDF, 1.23 MB). Report published in 2013 examines the driver licensing procedures in all 50 States as they apply to the older (65+) driver.

Multiple Medications and Vehicle Crashes: Analysis of Database (PDF, 4.24 MB). Report published in 2008 analyzes the association of the impairing effects of multiple medication use, drug interactions, and drug disease interactions on motor vehicle crashes in individuals age 50 years and greater, based on population databases.

Process and Outcomes Evaluation of Screening Programs: The Assessment of Driving-Related Skills (ADReS) Older-Driver Screening Tool (PDF, 896 KB). Report published in 2009 examines the effectiveness of Assessment of Driving-Related Skills (ADReS) in identifying older drivers who may or may not be at an increased risk for unsafe driving by comparing on-road performance of participants with ADReS results.

Traffic Safety Facts: Older Population (PDF, 6.10 KB). Fact sheet published in 2017 contains information on fatal motor vehicle crashes and fatalities based on 2015 data.

Traffic Tech Fact Sheet: Alcohol and Older Drivers' Crashes (PDF, 532.67 KB). Fact sheet published in 2014 focuses on filling gaps in research on alcohol and older drivers’ crashes.

Validation of Rehabilitation Training Programs for Older Drivers (PDF, 14.44 MB). Report published in 2013 about the effectiveness of four interventions designed to bolster safe performance among healthy older drivers.