Tips for Driving After Age 60
Although we can get around by bike, bus, train, or sidewalk, most Americans rely on
their car when it comes to getting from one place to another. Driving is a key to
As you get older, you should be able to continue to drive. A person's ability to drive
isn't based on age alone. Age or disease-related changes in vision, physical fitness,
problem-solving abilities, and reflexes, however, may be reasons to reevaluate your
abilities behind the wheel.
If any of the following have happened to you, you may have a problem that affects
A friend or family member has expressed concern about your driving ability.
You have become lost while driving on familiar routes.
You have been warned by a police officer about poor driving behavior, even if you
did not receive a ticket.
You have had several moving violations, near misses, or actual crashes in the last
Vision and hearing
Among the most common age-related changes that can affect your driving is vision.
As people age, they may experience a reduction in their field of vision. Additionally,
it becomes more difficult for eyes to adjust and focus on different objects. This
problem is intensified at night. This is especially true when trying to recover from
the glare of headlights. Vision problems from eye diseases such as cataracts, macular
degeneration, or glaucoma also can affect your driving ability.
Here are several symptoms of declining vision:
You have problems reading highway or street signs, or recognizing someone you know
across the street.
You have trouble seeing lane lines and other pavement markings, curbs, medians, other
vehicles, and pedestrians, particularly at dawn, dusk, and at night.
You experience more discomfort at night from the glare of oncoming headlights.
If you have any of these symptoms, see your eye healthcare provider. Even without
these symptoms, you should see your eye healthcare provider once a year for a routine
eye exam. Make sure you wear your glasses. Check that your headlights are correctly
aimed. If your vision is deteriorating, don't drive at night or in bad weather.
Another common age-related change that can affect your driving is your hearing. Good
hearing allows drivers to hear sirens and horns, as well as have the ability to know
what is happening around them.
As you age, it may become more difficult to control a car because of a decrease in
muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility.
Arthritis or physical pain also can limit driving abilities. This includes being able
to fully turn your head to look for traffic or operate a car with a manual transmission.
Symptoms of physical limitations or decreased physical fitness include:
You have trouble looking over your shoulder to change lanes, or you have difficulty
looking left and right to check traffic at intersections.
You have trouble moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal or turning the steering
You have fallen at least once in the last year. This doesn't count trips or stumbles.
You walk less than a block a day.
You can't raise your arms above your shoulders.
You feel pain in your knees, legs, or ankles when going up or down a flight of 10
If you have any of these symptoms, get a physical exam and advice from your healthcare
provider about a stretching and walking program for fitness. Get a car with an automatic
transmission. Limit sounds and distractions inside the vehicle. Always wear your seat
Decreased reaction time and attention
Driving requires dividing your attention among many activities and being able to react
quickly. Reaction time decreases with age. Although it may not be obvious in other
activities, a delay in response time can be quite noticeable during unexpected driving
A decline in vision and hearing reduces the information that a person needs to respond
or react to the environment with speed and good judgment that traffic often requires.
Illnesses can affect driving abilities as people age. These include cardiac, pulmonary,
neurologic, and psychiatric conditions.
Medicines can also decrease alertness, attention, concentration, and reaction time.
Review your medicines with your healthcare provider and ask whether any changes should
be made, or whether there are certain medications you should not take while driving.
Symptoms of decreased reaction time and attention include:
You feel overwhelmed by all the signs, signals, road markings, pedestrians, and vehicles
Gaps in traffic are harder to judge, making it more difficult to turn left at intersections
or to merge with traffic when turning right.
You often get lost or become confused.
You are slow to see cars coming out of driveways and side streets or to realize that
another car has slowed or stopped ahead of you.
If you have these symptoms, you might try to limit your driving to familiar routes.
Drive only during the day and avoid rush hour and heavily traveled routes. Turn left
at intersections that have a green arrow for left turns, or make several right turns
to avoid turning left.
On the road
Here are some precautions to take once you're behind the wheel:
Follow the laws of the road. Stay in your lane and try to drive at the speed of traffic. Don't go too slow or too
Buckle up. Fasten your seat belt and insist that your passengers do the same. Wearing your seat
belt can protect you in a crash.
Concentrate on your driving. Keep the radio volume low and don't smoke, eat, drink, or use a cell phone. When talking
to passengers, keep your eyes on the road.
Watch for other cars. Glance at your mirrors often and always look behind you when reversing or changing
Turn with caution. Always use your turn signal and don't rush. Make turns only when you have a clear
view of oncoming traffic and are sure you can turn safely. Then turn as slowly as
necessary to stay in your lane. If possible, consider changing your route to avoid
Know your limits. Try to avoid driving situations that make you uncomfortable. For example, if night
driving becomes difficult, don't drive at night. Or, if you do not like driving fast,
driving in a lot of traffic, or driving in bad weather, try to plan ahead to avoid
Brush up on your skills. AARP's Driver Safety Program is a refresher course for drivers age 50 and older. To
find an AARP course near you, contact your local AARP chapter or visit AARP.