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How do I Choose When to Stop Driving?

Seniors get a lot of flack from younger drivers. These newer drivers have a very black and white view. According to them seniors should not be allowed to drive after a certain age, period. They mistakenly think that seniors are more dangerous drivers just in virtue of their age and push for legal age limits on drivers license’s.

The reality is this issue isn’t nearly as simple as that. For many seniors the choice to hang up the keys is a personal one. No government mandate can capture the complex realities that make up this decision. Thankfully, many state governments seem to realize this, and they are avoiding regulation based on a certain age. Instead, the government is recognizing that it’s up to seniors and their loved ones to make that choice. If you’re considering stepping away from driving, or you want to discuss it with someone in your family, here are some things to help you make that decision.

Warning Signs for Seniors

The first step for anyone thinking about their ability to drive is to reflect on your own capabilities. The truth is that most responsible drivers can make good decisions on their own. Ask yourself if your vision is what it used to be. Can you distinguish objects on the road? Can you read important signs as you drive? Also important is your ability to remain conscious for long periods of time. Conditions that may render you unconscious involuntarily can create risks in driving and these risks need to be respected.

Talk to Your Doctor

In Canada, physicians receive a monetary bonus each time they warn a patient about conditions that may hamper their ability to drive. Here in the U.S., there is no similar program to incentivize and remind doctors to think about a patient’s driving ability. This means you must reach out to your doctor on your own. Communicate to your primary care physician that you are unsure about whether or not you should continue driving yourself. He or she can then keep you apprised of conditions that may affect your capacities on the road.

By being candid with your doctor you can be made aware of conditions that may make it dangerous for you to drive, but you can also remain assured when it is safe for you to drive. Talking to a doctor will also help friends and loved ones understand that a mandatory no-driving age misses the complexities of senior health. Some seniors do suffer conditions that keep them off the road, but many others are as sharp as ever and perfectly capable.

Factor in Expenses

Car insurance is often a huge money drain for many drivers. Although your rates are likely to drop throughout most of your adult life, many drivers see them increase again after they turn 65. Choosing to stop driving can help you save a lot of money when you no longer have to pay for car insurance, but you will be giving up some of your freedom.

Car insurance isn’t the only kind of insurance that you can save on by quitting driving, though. Choosing to drive can also raise life insurance premiums. The rationale is that seniors who drive place themselves at a greater risk than those who don’t, and life insurance companies reward those who cut down on risky behaviors.

Weigh Your Alternatives

How important driving is to you depends largely on how promising your alternatives are. While the independence granted by owning a car is unmatched, some alternative means of transportation can get you very close to that level of freedom.

The proximity of a bus stop or some other form of public transportation to your home or apartment is critical. Ask yourself how often a bus stops by. Is it often enough that you could catch the bus to meet people for last minute plans? If you stay out late will there be a bus available to take you home? Does the bus go everywhere that you can imagine yourself spending time? These are all important questions and what they say about your choice to stop or to continue driving depends entirely on your unique situation.

The decision to stop driving is one that almost every aging person will have to face eventually. What you should choose to do depends on your needs and circumstances and it’s one that only you and your family can make. By going into this decision completely informed you can find the path that gives you the most freedom and the most safety.