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How can I improve my driving?

Integrate these safe driving habits to decrease driving risk.

How do I know when it’s time to stop driving?

There is no simple answer, as the “time” is different for each individual. You have taken the first step! Reviewing this website will familiarize yourself with the process of transportation planning.  Cessation of driving should not be a specific day – like a retirement date for a job. The best plan is to gradually begin to allow others to drive you to: unfamiliar or long-distance destinations; at night; during rush hours or to the large, congested city destinations. Most importantly, talk to your physician, your family and others who know you and can assist you in developing your transportation plan.

How do I know when it’s time to start planning?

It is never too soon to start planning! The more you know and understand – you can “try-out” options without the stress of feeling there are no other options. Start the conversation with your primary care provider, family and friends. The first week of December is Older Drivers Awareness Week. Use that time between Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays to review have a conversation about your transportation plan. Just like a financial plan, it needs to be updated regularly.

Where do I start?

Start right here! Use the tools of this website to make your first plan to review with family and friends.

Who should be involved?

It’s always a good idea to involve those who care about you. Having an open and honest conversation is the place to start. You can include your spouse, children, siblings and close friends as you take steps toward making a transportation plan.

What age should my mother/father stop driving?

There is no specific age that is identified as the age to stop driving. It is not about age, but about function! The research shows that older adults are generally safe drivers. Specifically, drivers in their 60’s have the lowest crash rates. However, fatality rates do increase over the age of 70 and especially over the age of 80. This is probably more due to frailty and fragility as the aging body does not recover as quickly. However, it does mean that older adults need to be concerned. Use the section on Aging and Driving and Taking Control to explore more. The important point is to start the conversation and make a transportation plan that can be reviewed every year instead of deciding at this age, she/he needs to stop driving.

Why are occupational therapists identified as “experts?”

Occupational therapists are experts in understanding everyday activities. As medically trained health professionals, they understand health conditions and how those diagnoses will impact everyday activities, including driving. An occupational therapist can evaluate the driving risk, help decide when it is time for a specialized driving evaluation or if necessary, time to give up the keys. Understanding the importance of valued “occupations” like driving, the occupational therapist can also assist a person in this process, especially if an individual has a specific health condition such as arthritis, dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

How much will new forms of transportation cost?

Use our Transportation Calculator! Each type of transportation has different costs depending on the type of transportation (bus, ridesharing), location (urban, smaller city) and even time of day. These need to be explored as you build your transportation plan. As an older adult, there are many services that are discounted for those over 60 or 65 years of age – some communities, for example, offer free bus passes for seniors. The bus may not work for all your transportation needs, but maybe it will work when you want to go to the public library or senior center. The important point is, driving a personal vehicle is also expensive considering car payments and the cost of insurance, fuel and maintenance.  

Do I need to change my routine?

Yes, probably – but not necessarily all of your routines. Use the Transportation Planner to identify family or friends who also go to the places you want and need to go. For example, friends or family likely go to religious services the same time as you, and it may be as easy as hitching a ride. Other types of places, like the pharmacy or grocery shopping, are places everyone needs to go regularly. It may be as easy as changing the day or time to match their schedule. Finally, ridesharing or taxis allow you to set your own time when appropriate. 

What resources are available to me?

Each individual has different resources. For resources about Transportation Planning – this website is a great start in exploring options! For assistance, certainly, your family and friends are the best resources, as they generally are in regular contact and care about you. For those without close family or friends, reaching out to Areas Agencies on Aging, local senior centers or faith-based networks may be helpful.  

What’s the difference between ridesharing and taxis?

In some ways, they are not so different. If you want to get a ride to go somewhere, you can call or order a taxi or a rideshare. The driver will come to your address and take you to your destination. The main differences, for the user, are in payment and arranging the service. To arrange a taxi, you can hail one on the street / hotel or call the taxi company directly to arrange one to come to your house. Then upon arrival at the destination, you pay the taxi driver directly. Ridesharing is typically done through your smart phone or phone. You “hail” a ride and a nearby driver will arrive at your home. When requesting a ride, you will see the price of the ride. Once you agree and order the ride, the name of the driver, car model and time of arrival pops up. No money is needed upon your destination, it has been already arranged. Go to our section explaining these services under Your Ride is Here: Suburban and City Areas

Is ridesharing safe?

Yes. While there have been a few unfortunate instances, all ridesharing services have developed strategies to keep their riders and drivers safe. These include you getting the identification of the driver ahead of time and making sure the driver addresses you by name. Regardless, it is always important to be cautious and if you have any hesitance, you can always cancel the ride. Review this process with your family members and ride with someone who is familiar with the process before going out on your own!

What sort of incidents signal that I should stop driving?

Research has shown us that there are “red flags” that may alert us to an issue with driving safety. The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence developed a Warning Sign Checklist for drivers with dementia with the list ranked from minor to serious. Look for the link under the Warning Signs on this website. While one minor crash may not be an issue, when you have several minor crashes, it may be something to discuss with your physician and family member. It also may not mean you have to stop driving! It may be that your medication needs adjustment or you need to get assistance from a driving specialist who can evaluate how you can modify your vehicle to improve your vision behind the vehicle. See Consult the Experts on this website.

Who makes the final decision that an older adult should not be driving?

Legally, only the state licensing agencies can take away a person’s driver license, as a driver’s license is a privilege. The aim of this website is to never get to the point of having the state DMV involved. The aim of this website is for older adults to work collaboratively with family, friends and health care professionals to keep everyone on the road as long as safely possible.  That starts with transportation planning.  Start today.  Planning ahead will help you avoid having to make a final decision – it can be a well thought out and planned transition to keep an individual’s social participation active in their community.  Plan for the road ahead!

If your license is taken away, can you get it back?

Only your state licensing agencies can “take away” your license, and typically all agencies have a process to regain licensure. However, often times these processes are complex and move slowly. Your physician and/or occupational therapy-driving rehabilitation specialist may be of assistance in this process (see Meet the Experts). However, being proactive in transportation planning may avoid this unfortunate process. Working with your family and health care providers is the important key to this process.

If you start noticing driving mistakes, are there ways to improve driving performance?

It depends on what the driving mistakes are – check out The 3 Levels of Driving, under How’s my driving. If you have “bad habits” like doing rolling stops, yes, improvement is needed and you can do it! Check out our Tips for Safer Driving. If the mistakes are because there are new roadway markings such as a double left turn or a roundabout, these can be addressed through education with such as an online driving course, or driving with an individual who is familiar with the roadway. However, if the mistakes involve getting lost in a familiar environment or missing a stop sign, it is critical to look at your fitness to drive. Please see Consult the Experts and consider getting a comprehensive driving evaluation or speaking to your physician.   

Where can I find volunteer driving services or senior shuttles? Are there specific organizations I need to call?

The best places to start are the Area Agencies on Aging or local senior centers. Please see our information under Your Ride is Here: Rural Areas to start. 

I have tried to have the conversation with my mother/father/grandparent/spouse, but they refuse to listen. Should I report their driving to the DMV?

It is sometimes very difficult for family members to address this issue. If you are not being successful, after trying all the strategies in the section called Conversation Starters, consider who might be the best person to speak to your loved one. Perhaps it is their physician, clergy, sibling, or close friend. The other option is to discuss seeing an expert (Ask the Experts), the OT-DRS, especially if there are health conditions or failing memory. This comprehensive driving evaluation will provide that objective evaluation from a skilled medical provider who understands how hard it is to give up something so important. If these options are not viable, the last resort is reporting your family member or friend to the DMV. Almost all state licensing agencies have a process.  Finally, before it becomes a crisis, use this website to proactively develop you or your loved one’s Transportation Plan so they can be in the driver’s seat even without driving.

I’m worried that if I give up driving, I’ll never go out into the community. Will I still be able to have a social life once I give up driving?

Start today! Make a transportation plan. If you learn how else to manage getting around and start slowly, you will be able to plan ways to keep your social life active and full. Perhaps even improve it. With ride sharing, you may be able to get out more in the evening (if you are currently not driving at night) or when it is not the best weather – you can leave the driving to someone else.  Go to Make my Transportation Plan and do it today.

Make a transportation plan