Being able to get around in your community is a critical part of remaining independent and healthy. It helps us feel connected and lets us access opportunities to contribute to our community in meaningful ways. It is also crucial to maintain our physical and emotional well-being.
Most Americans age 70 or older have a driver's license (nearly 90 percent of men and 80 percent of women in that age group). As we age, multiple factors - from cost to physical and mental ability - can make driving more challenging. Making the decision to stop driving is rarely easy, but may be the safest thing to do in some cases.
How Your Driving Ability Changes
As we age, our bodies continue to change, often in ways that affect our ability to do things we once found easy. Some of the most common changes that can impact an older driver's safety include:
In addition, if you've owned your car for a long time, it may not fit your needs as well as it once did. It may be too big or too small, or the seats, steering wheel and mirrors may not adjust enough for you. Many newer cars are designed with older drivers in mind and include optional or standard equipment that increase driver safety, such as cameras, sensors and driver-assist technology.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol offers these recommendations for most older drivers:
Deciding Not To Drive
According to AARP, it may be time to consider alternatives to driving if you or your loved one experiences any of the following:
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 and your concerns 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, clergy member 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 the driver to schedule a driving test to evaluate his or her ability.
Community Transportation Options
The decision about how to best get around safely is made a little easier when you are aware of community transportation options that can help meet your needs. Many older Ohioans are fortunate to live in communities with transportation options. These can include:
Cost and access can be barriers to transportation for some older adults. Your community may offer programs that help older adults make essential trips to medical appointments, business errands, shopping and other activities. These services may be free, supported by donations or have a sliding-scale fee based on your ability to pay. Options vary by community. They can include direct services, such as bus and car rides, or financial assistance, such as bus passes or taxi vouchers.
Your area agency on aging or senior center can help you identify available transportation services in your area and that are right for your situation.
Below are links to state and national websites and resources that provide more information on these topics.
Older Americans Act Programs
AARP Driver Safety Program
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Ohio Public Transit
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - Older Drivers
RoadwiseRX (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)