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When Is It Time to Take the Keys Away from an Older Driver?

Seventy-eight percent of Americans 70 and older had driver’s licenses in 2008, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That’s up from 73 percent in 1997, a trend expected to continue as baby boomers age. This is an alarming statistic given that many skills required for safe driving—specifically vision, response time, and neuromuscular control—worsen as we age.

The challenge is to identify unsafe drivers without restricting those who drive safely.

In April 2010, the American Academy of Neurology issued guidelines to assist medical professionals evaluate whether a patient with dementia should stop driving. The guidelines also offer a few indicators of decreased driving ability: a crash in the past year to five years, a traffic citation in the past two to three years, or an aggressive or impulsive personality. Other ailments that can impede driving include glaucoma, angina, arthritis, respiratory illness, and neurologic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

Unfortunately, the family of an older driver is often is the best position to take away the keys. To avoid a tragic car accident, below are a few tips for evaluating whether an older drive should still be on the road:

  • Get the family together. The more cohesive the message, the better.
  • Check with a doctor. He or she might recommend talking to a specialist. Doctors can also help by telling someone to stop driving or by “prescribing” it.
  • Check your state laws. Regulations impose varying restrictions on older drivers. For example, Georgia residents who are 64 or older are required to have an eye exam every five years to renew their license. For specifics on your state, go to
  • Consult a driving rehabilitation expert. He or she can evaluate off-road tests of cognition, vision, and motor skills and make an on-road assessment. Find a certified specialist at
  • Arrange for other transportation. A social worker can help.
  • Call in an attorney. A lawyer can discuss the potential financial and legal consequences of a crash or injury.

Source: Consumer Reports