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.

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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 they are no longer able to drive safely, you can guide them toward transportation options that meet their mobility needs.

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 suggest alternative transportation options if necessary. 

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

  • Are they getting lost on routes that should be familiar?
  • Have you noticed new dents or scratches to the vehicle?
  • Have they received a ticket for a driving violation?
  • Have they experienced a near-miss or crash recently?
  • Have they been advised to limit/stop driving due to a health reason?
  • Are they overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving?
  • Are they taking any medication that might affect driving safely?
  • Have they received a ticket for impaired driving?
  • Have you noticed them speeding or driving too slowly for no reason?
  • Are they suffering from any illnesses that may affect driving skills? 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, be prepared to take steps appropriate to the situation, which might include talking with your loved one about safe driving and/or ceasing 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). Also consider that a number of older people, when asked, would listen more to a health professional than their family. Determine which best fits your situation.

Older Driver Safety
Should My Father Change His Driving Habits?

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?
  • Noticing stopped emergency vehicles?
  • 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/occupational 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.
  • Consider finding reliable alternative transportation options, i.e., public transportation or ride sharing services.

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 stop driving until the condition has been addressed** and you have developed a plan to drive safely or to use an alternate means of transportation. If you return to driving, please consider...

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

**No one who answers yes to any of these questions should drive, as they pose a risk to themselves and to other road users. 

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 so, consider the following…

  • Talk with your doctor. Ask him or her to check the side effects of any medicines you are taking.
  • Try walking, carpooling, public transit, and other forms of transportation.

If you drive with others in the car, especially children or young adults, you carry an extra responsibility.

When used the correct way, car seats, booster seats and seat belts offer the best protection for children and adults who are traveling in motor vehicles. All 50 States, 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 owner's manual and car seat instructions will provide the best information, the following recommendations will help you make sure the young people in your car are traveling safely. And don’t forget, the back seat is the safest place for all children under 13 to ride.

  • 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 Child Passenger Safety Technician, find a Car Seat Inspection station.

For many older adults, driving is a sign of independence. While most people 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; regular checkups with your primary care provider and eye exams are the keys to preserving independence and to continue driving safely.

Don’t forget:

When you are driving or riding in a 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 find 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 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 a 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 PDF, 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 ability to quickly react to sudden changes, it’s important to understand 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 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.

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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 certain medical conditions. These resources also provide information about transportation alternatives and how to get help with transportation.

Information on Driving with Medical Conditions

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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.

NHTSA In Action

NHTSA is dedicated to promoting safe behaviors on our nation’s roads

Between 2008 and 2017, the U.S. population of people 65 and older increased by 31 percent. In 2017, the number of people 65 and older killed in traffic crashes (6,784) made up 18 percent of all traffic fatalities. Because of the increasing proportion of older drivers on our nation’s roads, NHTSA is dedicated more than ever to promoting safe behaviors of older drivers on our nation’s roads.

NHTSA demonstrates its commitment to the safety of older drivers by working with and educating many national, State and community partners to provide resources for drivers, families, caregivers, health care professionals, law enforcement and departments of motor vehicles.

In this section, you’ll find the following resources for older drivers, caregivers, adult children, medical providers, law enforcement and traffic safety advocates:

  • Information and videos on how aging and medical conditions can affect driving;
  • Guidance on how to assess and discuss older driver safety issues; and
  • Transportation options, such as adapting a vehicle to meet the needs of an older driver.
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