When should older drivers stop driving?

older person drivingThis is a really difficult question that people often find themselves having to ask themselves. When should I tell mum or dad to stop driving? Is anybody ever ready to answer that question?

Mum and Dad have always been the ones we turn to for advice and guidance or the ones that difficult conversation with us. It doesn’t matter how old we get, turning the tables and having that difficult conversation is never easy.

But, with so much at stake, this is a topic that will not go away in fact, it will only get worse if you do not address it.

How good are our older drivers?

Much is made that the group of drivers most likely to be involved in a road incident is the young new drivers aged between 17 and 24. Whilst all that is true that younger drivers have the highest number of overall incidents they also do more miles.

Some groups claim that older people have more incidents per mile driven and there are clear statistics that back up this claim. However, as always it is not that simple!

When the average driver reaches 70 he or she has about 50 years of driver experience behind them which counts for a great deal. That is why many of them continue to drive safely for many years to come.

But there will come a time when reactions, eyesight, general health or other factor means that driving for each individual is no longer appropriate. It is with this group of drivers that should for various and personal reasons no longer be behind the wheel that group is the one that has most incidents.

The Law

First of all, what does the law say:

For some people it says surprisingly little – there is no mandatory age to stop driving. But, from the age of 70, you have to renew your Driving Licence and then again every 3 years thereafter.

If you do not renew your licence, you will not legally be allowed to drive after your 70th birthday. If you carry on driving, your driving licence and motor insurance would not be valid, and you would be committing a serious offence which carries stringent penalties, which could include a heavy fine and having your car seized by the police.

Although this renewal is free you are required to declare any medical conditions you on the form and confirm that you meet the legal eyesight standards for driving.

Why is it hard to know when to stop?

People want to continue driving for many of the same reasons as to why people want to start in the first place, but there is always a few extra reasons and incentives to keep going:

  • Independence
  • Freedom
  • Not having to rely on other people
  • Getting to the shops or doctors
  • They have always done it
  • Unless a sudden change to health has occurred it is likely that any change has been very slow and gradual, which can be very difficult to identify

The signs that you may want to consider stopping driving

The first thing to remember is that all drivers are different and the time to stop driving is different for different people. There are many people driving over the age of 100 and putting many of their younger contemporaries to shame with the quality of that driving. Many others have health issues that force them to drive decade before this point.

So what are some of the indicators that should you be considering:

  • Sudden changes to health – a stroke or heart attack
  • A long-term medical condition has progressed – Dementia, Arthritis, Parkinson’s, Diabetes
  • Deteriorating eyesight or hearing
  • Having more difficulty parking than you used to
  • Experiencing near misses or having accidents
  • Getting lost, especially in areas that you used to be comfortable driving in

What to do if you are concerned

The most important thing is to do is not ignore the situation, if you have had any of the above indicators or indeed a number of others then be brave an address them. In the first instance, this probably means having a conversation and see how they feel about the situation.

You never know they may be glad you brought it up and happy to consider their driving future.

When you start your conversation be honest, remain respectful and considerate of what this means to them and how hard it is likely to be for them. But you still need to be honest, their safety and that of other road users is at stake. Tell them why you are worried and what you have noticed that made you feel compelled to have this conversation.

In the first instance if they agree things might be changing and they need to consider the future a driving assessment may be an idea. These aren’t Driving Tests but simply a means of giving some independent insight into if things are changing or not.

If the conversation does not go well maybe it is time to talk to health professionals or bring in other members of the family. Maybe there is a friend that they may be likely to listen to. Either way, it is your responsibility to try and help them see if know of a genuine and compelling reason that they should be giving up driving.

Obviously, this is not easy

This may be one of the most difficult and uncomfortable conversations you may ever have, but if you know deep down that you have to have it then you should do so.

You are worried that it may not go well and they may react badly and you may be right. If this is about your parents remember how much you love them, how much they love you and how many difficult conversations they had with you as you were growing up.