When is it time to give up the car keys?

Making the decision to stop driving can be a scary, life-changing experience for many. Fears of giving up independence and not being able to meet basic needs are certainly common and not unfounded.

It can also be a sensitive subject to broach with someone—as driving and owning a car can be a matter of pride. Studies have shown that reduced mobility, such as losing one’s ability to drive, can be a major cause of depression.

But it’s important to value safety and consider the potential risks to yourself and others if your driving abilities are questioned.

There are several age-related factors that can affect a person’s driving abilities, including:

  • Impaired vision
  • Impaired hearing
  • Slower mental process
  • Side effects of medications

Fortunately, even without a car, there are several ways for older adults to get around. Family and friends can often help with basic needs. Public transportation, senior centers, and retirement communities can provide supplemental options, as well. It’s often a pleasant surprise to find that getting around can be easily accomplished—without the cost, maintenance, and stress of owning a car.

Staying safe

Ensuring safety behind the wheel requires regular evaluation by an impartial third party. Other steps to take include taking a driver safety course (often offered by AARP), exercising regularly to keep the mind and body sharp, and being cognizant to identify personal high-risk areas, such as driving at night, in bad weather, or on unfamiliar routes. A doctor can also provide a clinical assessment to evaluate an older driver.

If you think driving may no longer be safe for you or a loved one, the following resources can help identify warning signs:

Always put safety before pride when it comes to driving.