When Is It Time to Hang Up the Car Keys for Good?
Have you ever squinted at the road in front of you and wondered, “Maybe I should stop driving…”?
Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to stop driving one day. You could still be cruising down the road, windows rolled down and blasting Led Zeppelin, well into your 80s and 90s. But for many of us, the time may come when you have to decide whether it’s safe for you to be in the driver’s seat. According to AAA, adults over age 65 are more likely to have health conditions that make it harder to drive and more likely to take medications that could affect their driving. Older drivers also have the second highest rate of car crashes, just under teens.
It’s not an easy decision to make. No one wants to give up their independence. So how do you know when it’s time to hang up your car keys? We’ve put together a list to help.
As we age, our vision slowly declines over time. We’re also more likely to develop cataracts or have glaucoma, too. Being able to see is the most important skill you need to drive. So if your vision is failing, it may be time to take a step back and figure out if it’s causing you problems on the road.
Here’s what you should watch out for
- How well can you read road signs, during the day and at night?
- How well can you see traffic signals?
- Can you tell how far away or how close other cars are to you on the road?
- Can you read your speedometer and other signals inside your car?
- Do the lights bother your eyes when you drive at night?
If you find you aren’t able to read road signs anymore or you can’t see the lines on the road very well, even with your glasses on, it may be time to stop driving. Talk to your doctor and have your vision checked. You get a routine annual eye exam as part of your Medicare Advantage health plan. You may find out that your medications are causing blurry vision or you may need a stronger prescription for glasses and contacts.
Important note: In Florida, once you reach age 80, you will have to pass a vision test when you renew your driver’s license. Check out Florida's Mature Vision Test Requirements on the GrandDriver website.
Some medications you take may make you drowsy, which can make driving dangerous for you and other people on the road. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medications you take and find out if any of them make it risky for you to be on the road. Make sure you tell them about any over-the-counter medications you take. Your medications may interact in a way that makes it unsafe for you to drive, too.
Just like with your vision, you need to be able to hear what’s happening when you’re on the road, too. If you use a hearing aid, make sure to wear it when you’re driving. If you don’t have a hearing aid but you can’t hear sirens and honking cars on the road, talk to your doctor about getting one. Your BlueMedicare plan covers hearing exams and hearing aids. Depending on your plan, you may get an allowance for hearing aids, or you may have a copay. Remember, you may not notice that your hearing is worse than it used to be. Hearing loss usually happens gradually. That’s why it’s always good to have your doctor check your hearing.
Your health and physical strength
Several health conditions can make it difficult for you to drive. Painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can make it difficult for you to steer. Uncontrolled diabetes can affect your feet and vision and could even lead to heart attack and stroke, all of which affect your ability to drive.
Resources to find rides
If you don’t feel safe driving anymore, there are other ways to get where you need to go. This website can link you to community resources available to help. https://www.findarideflorida.org/.
Info for caregivers
If you’re a caregiver worried about a loved one’s driving, remember, age isn’t the issue. Age doesn’t make someone dangerous on the road. If you are worried you aren’t getting the full scoop from your loved one on their driving, here are some red flags to watch for:
- Traffic violations: Have they gotten a few tickets lately? Ask why and try to determine if there is a problem or if it was just a simple mistake.
- Look for damage to the car: See a recent dent? Find out what happened.
- Ask friends and neighbors: They see your loved one when you aren’t around. Find out if they have had any concerns, too.
- Check the insurance: Has their insurance rate gone up? That could be a clue they may have gotten more tickets or had more accidents than they have told you about.
- Take a drive with them: You won’t know how you feel until you observe them in the car. Make sure to pay attention to their reaction time and whether they seem to be struggling to see.
Filed under: Medicare News