Getting older does not necessarily mean a person should give up on driving, however, it’s important to plan ahead and take steps to ensure your safety on the road. If you’re an older driver, assessing how changes can affect your driving will help you drive safely while aging gracefully.
Answering these five simple questions can help you decide if physical changes have affected your driving skills:
- Do you have trouble with your eyesight?
- Have you ever lost control of your vehicle?
- Does driving ever make you feel nervous, scared, or overwhelmed?
- Are your loved ones concerned about your driving?
- Do you drive with children or young adults?
If you answered “YES” to one or more of these questions, it may be time to speak with a loved one about safe driving.
Take the Self Assessment!
DC DMV's mission is to promote public safety by ensuring the safe operation of motor vehicles. Driving is one of the most complex things that people do, and it is not always easy to be a safe user of the roadway. Being a safe driver takes a lot of skill, experience, responsibility, and judgment. You must be alert, keep your mind on driving, obey the laws and be courteous to other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
DC DMV’s online driving self-assessment is a tool you can use to determine your ability to continue to safely operate a motor vehicle. This assessment will help you determine whether you need to improve any of your driving skills to stay safe.
Age vs. Driving Ability
Does my age affect my ability to drive?
Not necessarily. There are no set rules as to when a person may need to give up their driver
license. What is important is your ability to continue to drive safely. Two of the most important
abilities for safe driving are
- to see hazards clearly, and
- to respond quickly to changes in highway and traffic conditions
These abilities may or may not decline as a person gets older.
How can I continue to drive safely for as long as possible?
- Test yourself. Test your abilities on a regular basis so you can make any needed changes to continue as a safe driver.
- Look for warning signs. Be alert for any signs of a decrease in driver abilities and skills. Be concerned if you:
- have a number of minor accidents or "near misses"
- cannot concentrate or you have thoughts that wander
- cannot easily read standard road signs
- become lost or confused on roads you know
- notice other drivers often sound their car horns at you
- hear concern from family, friends or police about your driving
- Seek solutions. If you notice signs of decreased driver abilities, determine if medical help or professional instruction can improve your driving abilities and skills. You can enroll in a course for older drivers and the courses cover a number of topics of special interest to older drivers.
- Make the right decision. The decision to continue or to stop driving is an important decision.
Remember, you are responsible not only for your own safety, but you must consider the safety
of your passengers, other drivers, pedestrians, motorcycle and bicycle riders. When you consider
whether or not to stop driving, you will want to learn about other methods of transportation
- Volunteer Driver/Ride Services
- Family & Friends
- Public Transportation
Do changes related to age affect driver ability?
Physical and mental abilities can decrease as a person gets older, but there are large differences in when changes occur and how big the changes are. The age of a person alone cannot determine driving ability, but be aware that
- problems can be easier to notice during stressful or difficult driving conditions (for example, problems may be noticed when you must merge into traffic or change lanes)
- several studies have shown that physical and mental problems among older drivers are
linked to increased risk of involvement in a crash
Many older drivers also take medications (even over-the-counter), which can impair driver ability. Medicines can affect the abilities of a driver at any age, but drugs can be a special problem for older drivers who more often must take medicines.
Improve Your Skills!
DC DMV recommends an online safety course for drivers 50 and older as a refresher or to enhance driving knowledge and skills. When you complete the course and receive a completion certificate, you may be eligible to receive discounts on motor vehicle insurance.
An online course can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be found at the links below (note there is a fee associated with taking these courses):
If you need any other information, you can always call the District's Citywide Call Center at 311.
Do changes related to age affect driver ability?
With a growing senior population and advancing technology, automakers are designing vehicles geared towards the needs of senior drivers. These new models have enhanced features, including:
- Clearer dashboard displays
- Wider doors
- Easier seat controls
- More precise seating adjustments
- Night vision technology
- Adjustable pedals
When searching for a new vehicle, look for ones that add to your comfort and control and offset any loss you have experienced in strength or visibility. The visibility of your vehicle on the road is also important.
Studies show that the most visible vehicles on the road have light, single-tone paint jobs. Industry analysts report the safest colors to be greenish yellow, cream, yellow and white. The least safe colors are red and black.
Larger vehicles tend to be easier for senior drivers to get in and out of, thanks to more head room, leg room, and higher seats. Only you can determine how comfortable you feel in a car, so take a test drive!
A couple of key tips:
- As you get in and out of the vehicle, notice whether you have to bend uncomfortably or have trouble lifting your legs
- If you use a wheel chair or walker, be sure it can fit comfortably in your car and easily be taken in and out