Driving With Elderly Drivers

Last Updated: 10/05/2022

Driving is a great source of freedom and independence and that continues right into old age, however, as drivers get older, research suggests that they’re more likely to be involved in accidents while behind the wheel.

This is primarily down to their natural instincts slowing down or degrading with age.

Crucially, sight may deteriorate and reactions slow as somebody gets older, while other senses such as hearing can also become less sharp than they once were.

As a result, it’s easy to see just why accidents may be more likely in older drivers, however, rather than being critical from the off, it’s important to understand why elderly people continue to drive.

The debate as to whether they should will probably rage on for may more years, but being able to drive can give old aged pensioners some vital benefits.

It maintains that level of independence that they will long for, while also helping them to do things such as go to the shops, attend medical appointments and visit family or friends.

There are also benefits in terms of their physical and mental well-being.

For elderly people, going for a drive can keep their mental capacity high, allowing them to stay sharper thanks to having to think and consider what they’re doing and where they’re driving to.

Additionally, the physical side of driving – pushing pedals and moving gear stick, handbrake and indicators, can also be really beneficial to an elderly person who would otherwise be house-ridden and perhaps a lot less mobile.

With all of this in mind, it changes how we think about how to deal with older drivers.

It becomes as much about keeping other road users safe as much as it does their own well-being, plus it’s a case of carefully weighing up the pros and cons of them getting behind the wheel.

What You Will Learn

This guide is going to examine how we can deal with older drivers.

We’re coming at this from two different directions.

Firstly, if we know an older driver, we can influence when they drive and how they drive, not to mention whether they should drive at all.

Secondly, what if we come across an elderly driver while we’re on the road ourselves?

Are there precautions that we should take?

Our guide will cover all of this.

As always, we’ve kept our familiar format for the guide by covering each of the following areas:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

If You Know An Elderly Driver:

If you know an elderly person who regularly gets behind the wheel to drive, then you can be a great help simply by keeping an eye on them both inside and outside of the car.

Here’s a few steps you can take and things to look out for.

Do they fasten their seatbelt still?

Much of driving is about preparation and due care and attention.

If an elderly driver begins forgetting to put their seat-belt on, it may be a warning sign that they’re not remembering some of the core responsibilities of driving

Are they comfortable when driving?

As we get older, parts of our body become troublesome.

Joints, for example, can become sore and present problems when driving, such as knees and ankles when using pedals.

Similarly, is the driver sitting comfortable at the wheel or are they hunched over or showing signs of pain?

Are they aware of their surroundings when driving?

Regardless of your age, you simply must be fully aware of your surroundings when you’re driving a car.

Therefore, if you notice an elderly driver who isn’t aware of traffic lights, road markings, pedestrians or other road users, then it can be problematic.

Do they tailgate?

Tailgating can be a sign that their eyesight isn’t good enough for driving any more.

Does he/she complain of getting lost more frequently?

If the driver complains that they get lost when out driving more and more, then it may be a sign that they should cease driving if their memory or awareness is decreasing.

Has their car been damaged?

If you notice that an elderly driver has picked up small amounts of damage on their car, then it may be a sign that they’re having minor collisions on the road and do not realise.

It’s an indicator that it may be time to stop driving.

If You Notice An Elderly Driver On The Road:

If you notice an elderly driver on the road with you, it may be wise to make a few small changes in your driving behaviour to reduce the chance of any accidents.

Give more room:

Whether the driver is in front of you or behind, take steps to create more room between your vehicle and theirs.

This can give them more stopping room just in case their vision is poor, and you more stopping room just in case they make a mistake.

Pass wide:

If you need to overtake an elderly driver on the motorway who is perhaps taking up more space than they should or occupying multiple lanes, then you should do so as wide as space permits.

Don’t rush them:

Make sure you do not drive in a way which may intimidate them.

Hints & Tips

If you notice an elderly driver who is displaying signs that perhaps indicate they should no longer be driving, then it can be tricky to raise the subject in conversation.

The driver in question will have been driving for many years and will be very protective over their status as a driver.

No matter how difficult it is, you should always raise the issue if you genuinely feel like they are not safe to be driving.

Be sensitive about it and show compassion.

The key is to try and make them understand where you are coming from and why you believe it to be unsafe.

While you do not wish to be confrontational, having evidence to demonstrate your point can help.

If you’re out driving and you are following an elderly driver who clearly is not safe to be on the road, the best thing to do in the immediate term is give them space and time.

Back off and allow yourself the time to remove yourself from their immediate area.

Final Thoughts

Age is something that eventually catches up with us all.

While raising the issue of age with driving is always going to be sensitive, you have to keep sight of the bigger picture – the safety of the driver themselves, as well as other road users.

Further Resources