While you have to be 16 to get a driver’s license, there’s no upper age limit on driving in most states.* But unfortunately, most of us don’t always know our own limitations and may continue driving a little longer than we should. Below are four warning signs that it could be time to relinquish the driver’s seat (or at least put some restrictions on when and where you drive):
When is it no longer safe to drive?
Your vision and hearing isn’t what it used to be.
Maybe you’re having trouble reading street signs or judging distance or you sometimes don’t hear cars honking at you or an ambulance coming up behind you. Be sure to get your vision and hearing checked regularly—and corrected as needed. However, if you’re still having difficulties, yield to a driver with sharper senses and enjoy the ride.
Your arms and legs have less flexibility and strength.
You may not think of driving as particularly physical, but it is. You need arm strength to turn the steering wheel and shift, leg mobility to brake and accelerate, and flexibility in your neck so you can turn your head to back up (unless you have a backup camera). If you’ve become extremely stiff or have lost significant strength in your limbs, it might be time to simply relax in the passenger seat.
Your response time is impaired.
Things happen so quickly when you’re driving. Instead of having time to think about what you’re going to do, you often have to act on reflex. However, as we age, our slower reaction time can mean that you may not hit the brakes quickly enough or get a good grip on the wheel in time. Hesitating even for a split second can end in tragedy. Don’t risk it!
Your neurons aren’t firing quite as quickly anymore.
A little bit of confusion and/or memory loss (which can sometimes be a side effect of medication) has caused seniors to stop at green lights or go at red lights, forget to turn signals on or off, get lost on familiar routes, and the most dangerous of all, mixing up the accelerator and brake pedals. If you’re not at the top of your game, there’s no disgrace in acknowledging that fact and pulling off the road as quickly as you can. Your independence isn’t nearly as important as your safety!
*You may be required to take a vision, knowledge and/or road test when you renew your license after a certain age.