Senior Driving Safety

Senior man with hat and eyeglasses adjusting rear mirror while sitting in his car. Other hand on steering wheel. Picture taken from back seat.
Edited by Bobbi Thury

As you collect more and more birthdays, you might wonder if it is still safe for you to continue driving. Luckily, there are several resources that can help you evaluate that question. You can also get help by taking a refresher course that assesses and can improve senior driving safety.

Traditionally, people drove as long as they could. This was usually until their children took away the keys or they got into a wreck that scared them away from driving. Most aging adults do not realize they have better options for addressing the issue of driving, than either giving up their independence or becoming a danger to themselves and others.

When to Get a Formal Driving Assessment

Regardless of age, most people likely assess their own driving skills inaccurately. If you tend to be hard on yourself, you might think you are a bad driver, whether you actually are or are not. Some people overestimate their driving skill. It can be hard to be objective about your driving or that of an aging parent.

A formal driving assessment is in order, if there are any of these warning signs:

  • Getting more tickets or warnings in recent years than usual
  • Struggling to change lanes or to stay in the intended lane
  • Not noticing pavement markings, traffic signals, or signs
  • Multiple dents or scrapes on the car
  • Sideswiping or colliding with garage doors, curbs, fences, dumpsters, or other fixed objects
  • Having car accidents or near misses

Any other significant change that causes anxiety about senior driving safety should indicate the need for a formal assessment.

Refresher Courses and Assessments

The AARP offers an eight-hour course that people can take in person over two days or online within 30 days. You can get more information on the low-cost program, by calling toll-free at (888) 227-7669. Your car insurance company might give you a discount on your premiums after you complete the course. The AARP Driver Safety Program refresher course is for people age 50 and up.

Military veterans can schedule a series of tests to evaluate driving competence at a Veterans Administration medical center. Driver rehabilitation specialists or occupational therapists perform the testing. Non-veterans can get similar professional evaluations at a local hospital or rehabilitation center. If there is strong disagreement in your family about whether a loved one should continue driving, an objective assessment by a disinterested third party can resolve the dispute.

Sometimes people ask the family doctor to decide whether it is safe for a senior to drive. However, this practice is not always the best approach. The doctor can perform vision, reflex and hearing tests. However, driving involves many skills other than these three things.

This request can put the doctor in the position of worrying about the consequences of making the wrong call in either direction. Asking the doctor to enter into the dispute can also damage the professional relationship the physician has with the senior. Your parent might hide medical issues from the doctor to try to keep his driving privileges. Let the doctor practice medicine and have other professionals assess senior driving safety.


A Place for Mom. “Driver Safety for Seniors: Assessment & Resources.” (accessed August 21, 2019)