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The Ohio Department of Aging

Ohio Department of Aging Transportation

Safe Driving

Most Americans age 70 or older still have a driver's license - nearly 90 percent of men and 80 percent of women. The aging network promotes independence by supporting programs that help older Ohioans drive safely or provide transportation alternatives.

There is no magic age at which we are no longer able to drive safely, but mental and physical changes associated with aging can impact our ability to do so. Vision, strength, flexibility and overall health typically decline with age. Common driving errors by mature drivers reflect these changes and include failure to yield, wide turns and improper backing.

In addition to things all drivers should do (e.g., wear safety belts, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you, use turn signals and observe the speed limit), the Ohio State Highway Patrol recommends older drivers:

  • Stay aware of changing physical and perceptual abilities and adjust driving habits;
  • Do not drive too slowly (this can be as unsafe as speeding);
  • Avoid busy roadways and rush hours whenever possible;
  • Ask the doctor or pharmacist if medicine they take could affect their driving; and
  • Take a class in defensive driving, particularly one geared toward older drivers.

Many organizations offer free or low-cost driver training for mature drivers. Contact your regional post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, local sheriff's office or police department or Area Agency on Aging to find a program near you.

Related Information

AARP Driver Safety Program
This 8-hour classroom refresher can help you learn the effects of aging on driving and how you can adjust your driving.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
The research arm of the national auto club provides educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users.

Deciding Not to Drive

Most people want to continue driving as long as we can do so safely. But, there may come a time when you or someone you know should limit time spent behind the wheel or hang up the keys. This is often an emotional and difficult decision, but it helps to look at things rationally. AARP offers some warning signs that it may be time to limit driving or stop altogether:

  • Difficulty staying in the lane of travel
  • Frequent dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
  • Trouble judging gaps in traffics at intersections and on highway entrance/exit ramps
  • Increased negative interactions with other drivers (i.e., honking, gestures, etc.)
  • Reluctance of friends or relatives to ride along
  • Getting lost more often
  • Difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking straight ahead
  • Trouble paying attention to or violating signals, road signs and pavement markings
  • Slower response to unexpected situations
  • Increased reliance on mirrors to check behind and alongside the vehicle.

If you notice one or more of these warning signs, have your driving assessed by a professional or attend a driver refresher class. You may also want to consult with your doctor if you are having unusual concentration or memory problems, or other physical symptoms that may be affecting your ability to drive. Use common sense and trust your feelings; if you don't feel safe, don't drive.

If you are concerned that an older loved one is no longer able to drive safely, AARP recommends you bring the subject up in a supportive manner. Talk about things he or she can do to "stay on the road" safely. Often, just talking about the issue can help him or her recognize a need for improvement.

If you feel a loved one's driving ability presents an immediate danger, involve others in the discussion. A doctor, clergyman or friend may have more impact. As a last resort, contact the Ohio Highway Patrol (1-877-7-PATROL) to report dangerous driving. You can do so anonymously and authorities will contact him or her to schedule a driving test to evaluate his or her ability.

Related Information

How to Help the Older Driver
This chapter from the Physician's Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers is published by th American Medical Association, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U. S. Department of Transportation.

Alternatives to Driving

Senior transportation programs make it possible for individuals who do not drive and cannot use public transportation to obtain rides for essential trips, such as medical appointments, business errands, shopping and other activities. Transportation services vary among communities and may be "fixed route" (i.e., similar to a bus route, with scheduled stops and routes) or "demand response" (i.e., like taxi service, providing on-demand, door-to-door service). Services may be provided by Urban and Rural transit systems, human service organizations, churches, and other providers.

Transportation services may include:

  • dial-a-ride;
  • bus tokens and/or transit passes for fixed route scheduled services;
  • taxi vouchers; and
  • mileage reimbursement to volunteers or program participants.

Services may be free, supported by donations or have a sliding-scale fee based on ability to pay. Contact your Area Agency on Aging or local Senior Center for information on senior transportation programs near you.

Senior transportation programs make it possible for individuals who do not drive a to obtain rides for essential trips

Related Information

Ohio Transit
The Ohio Department of Transportation supports, coordinates and funds Public Transportation systems and programs.