When to Be Concerned
Normal aging does affect driving, but there isn’t set age when a person is no longer safe behind the wheel. In fact, most people can safely drive well into old age. When people become unsafe to drive, it’s generally the result of an underlying medical condition or medications, not reaching a certain age.
Get involved by regularly checking the driving of your parent or other senior driver in your life. Here are two common warning signs:
- The driver has been issued two or more traffic tickets or warnings in the past two years. Tickets can predict greatest risk for collision.
- The driver has been involved in two or more collisions or “near-misses” in the past two years. Rear-end crashes, parking lot fender-benders and side collisions while turning across traffic rank as the most common mishaps for drivers with diminishing skills, depth perception or reaction time.
Additional warning signs, as well as information on common medical conditions and driving evaluations, can be accessed here.
Identify Warning Signs
When you ride along with a driver to look for signs of poor driving, keep in mind it doesn’t necessarily mean the person should not drive. Often, poor driving performance can be improved with training or by addressing an underlying medical condition that affects driving. A trained medical professional can help identify treatment options that may help improve – not limit – safe driving ability.
Here are common warning signs:
- Does the driver confuse the gas and brake pedals or have difficulty working them? Drivers who lift their legs to move from the accelerator to the brake, rather than keeping a heel on the floor and pressing with the toes, may be signaling waning leg strength.
- Does the driver seem to ignore or miss stop signs and other traffic signals? Perhaps the driver is inattentive or cannot spot the signs in a crowded, constantly moving visual field.
- Does the driver weave between or straddle lanes? Signaling incorrectly or not at all when changing lanes can be particularly dangerous, especially if the driver fails to check mirrors or blind spots.
- Do other drivers honk or pass frequently, even when the traffic stream is moving relatively slowly? This may indicate difficulty keeping pace with fast-changing conditions.
- Does the driver get lost or disoriented easily, even in familiar places? This could indicate problems with working memory or early cognitive decline.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration