Although drivers of all ages can get into accidents, driving often gets riskier with age. As people get older, changes in vision, physical strength, mobility, and cognition can make it dangerous to get behind the wheel. As a result, the risk of being killed or injured in an automobile accident increases with age.
However, older drivers can take several steps to ensure they’re in great driving shape. There are also new car technologies that could help some seniors continue to drive long into their golden years.
Since everyone goes through unique changes as they age, guidelines for older drivers are not one-size-fits-all. Additionally, since health can change so gradually, seniors and their loved ones don’t always notice right away when their ability to drive safely has diminished. Some people adjust to changes in their abilities by driving less frequently, or only during the daytime when visibility is good. However, there may come a time when a senior should hang up their car keys for good.
There are various reasons driving can become more dangerous with age.
Although many people notice significant changes in their physical and mental condition as they age, several risk-reduction strategies for older drivers can keep them behind the wheel for longer. Here are a few ways to improve mobility, visibility, and safety in the car:
|Car feature||Why it’s good for older drivers|
|Wide door openings and seats about hip level||These features make it easier to get in and out of cars, reducing the risk of falls or sprains.|
|Proximity key systems||You can enter the car without fumbling for keys, which could be especially helpful for those with grip or arthritis issues.|
|Push-button start (typically included with proximity key systems)||These systems let you push a button to start a vehicle instead of struggling to grip and turn a key.|
|Seats with power adjustments that include
power lumbar for firm lower-back support
|These controls go beyond standard four-way and six-way power seat adjustment to offer more comfort for everyday driving and long trips. They can help with fatigue, back issues, and aches.|
|Adjustable steering wheel (height/tilt and telescopic adjustments)||Combined with power seat adjustment, an adjustable wheel can reduce driver fatigue and make driving more comfortable. A telescopic steering wheel lets you pull it closer or push it farther away and can decrease the risk of bad injuries from airbag deployment (the closer the steering wheel, the more serious an injury could be).|
|Heated seats and heated steering wheel||Heated seats can ease back pain and stiffness, and offer comfort on chilly days.|
|Large touchscreens and voice recognition controls||Many cars are now equipped with touchscreen controls for audio, phone, and car systems, which can help seniors with vision and dexterity issues.|
|Higher perch with LED exterior lighting||A higher seat improves visibility. Powerful exterior lights can also help you see the lay of the road and potential obstacles.|
|Backup cameras||Drivers of all ages can benefit from backup cameras, which clearly display the area behind the vehicle. Usually, bells sound if there are objects in the car’s way when it’s in reverse.|
|Blind-spot monitors||This new technology is very useful for older drivers, especially those with poor mobility. This feature notifies you when there are cars or obstacles in your blind spots.|
|Low- or zero-effort steering||This nonstandard type of steering is best for older adults with limited mobility or shoulder arthritis.|
|Hand controls for gas and brake||Available for installation in most vehicles, hand controls for gas and brake could be particularly helpful for senior drivers with preexisting disabilities.|
|Swing-out seats||These rotating seats make it easier to get in and out of vehicles.|
|Pedal extenders||These can help smaller drivers reach the gas and brake pedals.|
To see how well your current car fits your needs (or could fit your needs), head to a CarFit event. Call to reserve a spot, and plan for your appointment to take about 30 minutes. You may discover your car has features you didn’t know about that can benefit you going forward. You can get other resources and support related to senior driving at these events too.3
Seniors, their children, and other family members should have open and respectful conversations early about the possibility of driving changes down the road. Seniors may prefer to initiate the conversations so they have more control and can reassure their kids they are safety-minded. Their adult children can also start these conversations to acknowledge their parents’ independence and the value that driving brings them.
AARP offers an online seminar called We Need to Talk, which helps families assess when it may be time for older adults to stop driving. It also provides tips for having these difficult discussions.4
During conversations about driving, keep the focus on skills, not age. Seniors may be at higher risk of dangerous driving than those several decades younger, but there are plenty of safe senior drivers.
That said, it may be time for a senior to stop driving if any of these red flags appear:
If these red flags occur, older drivers and their families should discuss the issues directly. Before deciding to stop driving altogether, older drivers could find ways to mitigate their issues. Here are some possible solutions to reduce risk:
Many states have stricter licensing laws for senior drivers, so make sure you know your state’s rules. Some states require drivers over a certain age to submit proof of adequate vision when renewing their licenses. Other states require older drivers to renew their licenses in person rather than by mail or online, and some states ask them to renew their licenses more frequently than younger adults do.
Up-to-date driver’s licenses help keep everyone safe on the road. Familiarize yourself with your state’s laws below.
|State||License renewal cycle||Proof of adequate vision required at renewal?||Mail or online renewal permitted?|
|Alabama||4 years||No||Online, every other renewal|
|Alaska||5 years||69 and older, every renewal||No (for 69 and older)|
|Arizona||5 years for ages 65 and older||Every renewal||No|
|Arkansas||4 or 8 years for ages 70 and older (personal option)||Every other renewal||No|
|California||5 years||70 and older, every renewal||No (for 70 and older)|
|Colorado||5 years||Every renewal||Both, if photograph is newer than 16 years|
|Connectict||2 years permitted for ages 65 and older (personal option)||No||Both, every other renewal|
|Delaware||8 years||Every renewal||No|
|District of Columbia||8 years||Every renewal||No (for 70 and older)|
|Florida||6 years for ages 80 and older||80 and older, every renewal||Both, every other renewal|
|Georgia||8 years||Every renewal||Both, every other renewal|
|Hawaii||2 years for ages 72 and older||Every renewal||By mail, limited to 2 consecutive renewals, but must appear in person at least every 16 years|
|Idaho||4 years for ages 63 and older||Every renewal||No (for 70 and older)|
|Illinois||2 years for ages 81-86; 1 year for ages 87 and older||75 and older, every renewal||No (for 75 and older)|
|Indiana||3 years for ages 75-84; 2 years for ages 85 and older||75 and older, every renewal||Both, every other renewal|
|Iowa||2 years for ages 78 and older||70 and older, every renewal||No (for 70 and older)|
|Kansas||4 years for ages 65 and older||Every renewal||No (for 65 and older)|
|Kentucky||4 or 8 years (personal option)||Every renewal||Both, if photograph is newer than 16 years|
|Louisiana||6 years||70 and older, every renewal||No (for 70 and older)|
|Maine||4 years for ages 65 and older||62 and older, every renewal||No (for 62 and older)|
|Maryland||8 years||40 and older, every renewal||Both, if photograph is newer than 16 years|
|Massachusetts||5 years||75 and older, every renewal||No (for 75 and older)|
|Michigan||4 years||When renewing in person||Both, every other renewal|
|Minnesota||4 years||Every renewal||No|
|Mississippi||4 or 8 years (personal option)||No||Online, every other renewal|
|Missouri||3 years for ages 70 and older||Every renewal||No|
|Montana||4 years for ages 75 and older||Every renewal||Both, every other renewal|
|Nebraska||5 years||72 and older, every renewal||No (for 72 and older)|
|Nevada||4 years for ages 65 and older||71 and older, every renewal||Both, every other renewal for 65 and older|
|New Hampshire||5 years||Every renewal||Online, every other renewal|
|New Jersey||2 or 4 years for ages 70 and older (personal option)||Every 10 years||Both|
|New Mexico||4 years for ages 71-78; 1 year for ages 79 and older||75 and older, every renewal||No (for 75 and older)|
|New York||8 years||Every renewal||Both|
|North Carolina||5 years for ages 66 and older||Every renewal||Online, every other renewal|
|North Dakota||4 years for ages 78 and older||Every renewal||No (for 70 and older)|
|Ohio||4 years for ages 65 and older||65 and older, every renewal (effective July 1, 2022)||No (for 65 and older)|
|Oklahoma||4 or 8 years (personal option)||No||Both, every other renewal|
|Oregon||8 years||50 and older if renewing in person||Online, every other renewal|
|Pennsylvania||2 or 4 years for ages 65 and older (personal option)||No||Both|
|Rhode Island||2 years for ages 75 and older||Every renewal||Online, every other renewal|
|South Carolina||8 years||Every renewal||Both|
|South Dakota||5 years||65 and older, every renewal||Both, every other renewal|
|Texas||2 years for ages 85 and older||79 and older, every renewal||No (for 79 and older)|
|Utah||8 years||65 and older, every renewal||Online, every other renewal|
|Vermont||2 or 4 years||No||By mail, unless new photo required|
|Virginia||5 years for ages 75 and older||75 and older, every renewal||No (for 75 and older)|
|Washington||6 or 8 years (personal option)||Every renewal||No (for 70 and older)|
|West Virginia||8 years||Every renewal||Online, every other renewal|
|Wisconsin||8 years||Every renewal||No|
|Wyoming||5 years||Every renewal||By mail, every other renewal7|
Safe senior driving is a multilayered issue that incorporates driving ability, planning, potentially difficult conversations, car tech, and vehicle adaptations. Today, older drivers have more car options and driving resources than ever before to keep them driving for many years. While senior drivers have unique needs and situations to consider, it’s up to drivers of all ages to help everyone stay safe on the road. Make sure to wear seat belts and avoid texting and driving, no matter what age you are.
Older drivers taking multiple medications could be at higher risk of accidents. Reuters. (2018, November 28).
Injury Prevention & Control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, November 30).
CarFit Events. CarFit. (2022).
We Need to Talk. AARP. (2022).
Older Drivers. National Institute on Aging. (2018, December 12).
Older Drivers. NHTSA. (2022).
License renewal procedures by state. IIHS. (2022, May).