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Last updated: January 25, 2024

How to Tell Older Adults to Stop Driving

Help the older adult in your life maintain their safety as well as their independence.

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One of the hardest aspects of approaching old age is the loss of independence. With the onset of various medical issues, both physical and cognitive, some older adults lose everyday capabilities they once had. Driving is a prime example. Diseases like arthritis and dementia make driving difficult and unsafe, so it’s up to family, friends, and healthcare providers to make sure people with those conditions aren’t behind the wheel. But how can you approach such a delicate topic effectively?

How to Talk to Seniors About When to Stop Driving

Once you’ve determined a senior driver in your life is no longer safe to drive, take these steps for the big talk.

Choose Someone to Start the Conversation

Choose someone to lead the conversation who has the older adult’s best interests and safety at heart, knows their physical capabilities, and has seen them drive regularly. For 50 percent of older, married adults, that person is their spouse. For 14 percent, it’s an adult child, and for 27 percent, it’s a physician. Unmarried adults prefer to have this talk with their doctors (41 percent) and their adult children (31 percent), according to a study from The Hartford (which underwrites AARP car insurance) and MIT.1

Plan Ahead

It’s best to have a one-on-one conversation rather than confront the older adult with their entire family. Choose a time of day when the person will be the most relaxed and have the conversation in stages over a period of time. For example, you can start the conversation long before any issues (like hitting a curb) come up by asking a question like, “How will you know when it’s time to stop driving?”

Ask Questions and Give Your Reasons

Ask the older adult questions such as the following:

  • Are you concerned about driving?
  • Do your medications cause any side effects?
  • Has your driving changed at all recently?
  • How is your vision?
  • When was the last time you visited the eye doctor?

Once they respond, you can show them how an ailment like vision impairment can worsen their driving abilities.

Be Encouraging and Supportive

Your goal is to ensure the older adult’s safety without taking away their sense of independence. To prevent them from feeling attacked, don’t make demands or tell them they are a dangerous driver. Rather, focus on their medical conditions or your own experiences with their driving skills instead of their age.


Use “I” instead of “you” statements. For example, it’s better to say, “I am worried about your driving” versus “You are not a safe driver.”

Offer Transportation Options

There are many ways for older adults to travel that don’t involve them getting behind the wheel:

  • Public transportation
  • Taxis
  • Carpooling with a family member or friend
  • Rideshares like Lyft or Uber
  • Walking, if the distances are within their capabilities
  • County transportation services, which you can find via your local Area Agency on Aging & Disability at

Suggest Testing

The older adult may want to test their driving abilities for themselves. There’s no single test that will determine whether someone is a safe driver, so we suggest using a combination of the following tests.

  • NHTSA self-assessment: This is an easy online self-assessment from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It asks the senior driver about their vision, reaction times, physical fitness, and other factors that impact driving abilities. Find it at
  • Physical and cognitive exams: A qualified doctor can perform these exams and tell the older adult whether they should continue to drive or not.
  • Driving evaluation: An occupational therapist can assess the older adult’s driving skills and show them how to drive more safely. For some, this could involve exercising more, placing special equipment in their car, or avoiding certain types of driving, like driving at night. Find an occupational therapist from the American Occupational Therapy Association via
  • Vision and hearing tests: Many states actually require vision tests at license renewals. See below for your state’s laws surrounding older adults and license renewals.3
State Proof of adequate vision required at renewal? License renewal cycle in years
Alabama No All ages: 4
Alaska 69 and older: every renewal All ages: 5
Arizona Every renewal 65 and older: 5
Arkansas Every other renewal 70 and older: 4 or 8
California 70 and older: every renewal All ages: 5
Colorado Every renewal All ages: 5
Connecticut No 65 and older: 2
Delaware Every renewal All ages: 8
District of Columbia Every renewal All ages: 8
Florida 80 and older: every renewal 80 and older: 6
Georgia Every renewal All ages: 8
Hawaii Every renewal 72 and older: 2
Idaho Every renewal 63 and older: 4
Illinois 75 and older: every renewal 81-86: 2

87 and older: 1

Indiana 75 and older: every renewal 75-84: 3

85 and older: 2

Iowa 70 and older: every renewal 78 and older: 2
Kansas Every renewal 65 and older: 4
Kentucky Every renewal All ages: 4 or 8
Louisiana 70 and older: every renewal All ages: 6
Maine 62 and older: every renewal 65 and older: 4
Maryland 40 and older: every renewal All ages: 8
Massachusetts 75 and older: every renewal All ages: 5
Michigan When renewing in person All ages: 4
Minnesota Every renewal All ages: 4
Mississippi No All ages: 4 or 8
Missouri Every renewal 70 and older: 3
Montana Every renewal 75 and older: 4
Nebraska 72 and older: every renewal All ages: 4
Nevada 71 and older: every renewal 65 and older: 4
New Hampshire Every renewal All ages: 5
New Jersey Every 10 years 70 and older: 2 or 4
New Mexico 75 and older: every renewal 71-78: 4

79 and older: 1

New York Every renewal All ages: 8
North Carolina Every renewal 66 and older: 5
North Dakota Every renewal 78 and older: 4
Ohio 65 and older: every renewal 65 and older: 4
Oklahoma No All ages: 4 or 8
Oregon 50 and older if renewing in person All ages: 8
Pennsylvania No 65 and older,: 2 or 4
Rhode Island Every renewal 75 and older: 2
South Carolina Every renewal All ages: 8
South Dakota 65 and older: every renewal All ages: 5
Tennessee No All ages: 8
Texas 79 and older: every renewal 85 and older: 2
Utah 65 and older: every renewal All ages: 8
Vermont No All ages: 2 or 4
Virginia 75 and older: every renewal 75 and older: 5
Washington Every renewal 6 or 8 years, personal choice
West Virginia Every renewal All ages: 8
Wisconsin Every renewal All ages: 8
Wyoming Every renewal All ages: 5

What to Do If They Refuse to Stop Driving

If you’ve done all of the above and the older adult refuses to stop driving, you have two options:

  1. Report them to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) anonymously. The DMV may require them to take the driving test again, and if they fail, will take away their license.
  2. Have their doctor report them to the DMV.4

Warning Signs of an Unsafe Driver

Unsure whether or not the older adult in your life should keep driving? Look for these red flags.

  • Difficulty changing and staying in lanes
  • Hitting curbs
  • Scrapes or dents on their car
  • Driving above or under the speed limit5
  • Increased car insurance costs due to a bad driving record
  • Getting lost in areas they should be familiar with
  • Being pulled over and warned about their driving behavior
  • Multiple moving violations, close calls, or crashes in the past few years
  • Being advised by a doctor or healthcare worker to stop driving
  • Running red lights and stop signs
  • Two or more warnings or tickets in the past two years
  • Receiving comments from friends and neighbors about unsafe driving and road rage
  • Anxiety about nighttime driving6

Health Issues That Impact Driving Abilities

Many medical conditions make driving safely difficult, if not impossible.


Stiff muscles and joints can make it harder for drivers to hit the brakes and gas pedals, turn the steering wheel, and turn their heads to check blind spots.

Cardiovascular Disease

Someone at risk of a heart attack could die suddenly at the wheel, injuring or killing others if they lose control of the vehicle.


With later-stage dementia, older adults may have trouble making decisions while driving, as their memory is significantly affected.

Hearing Impairment

An older adult with hearing issues may be unable to hear horns or sirens coming from outside the car or noises from mechanical issues inside the vehicle.

Parkinson’s Disease

Uncontrollable movements and loss of balance and coordination make driving unsafe for those with Parkinson’s disease.

Vision Impairment

Someone with glaucoma, macular degeneration, or cataracts may find it hard to see things outside of their direct sight lines. They’ll take longer to read traffic and street signs, and they’ll have trouble recognizing familiar places. Nighttime driving will become more challenging, but even during the day, headlights and street lights will create glare, and the sun may blind them.

Sleep Apnea

Someone with sleep apnea may be very sleepy during the day, resulting in drowsy driving that increases the risk of motor vehicle crashes.7


Strokes cause people to lose control of their limbs and movements, affecting their control of the car.


Some medications cause drowsiness. All drivers should ask their doctor or pharmacist if they can drive safely before taking a drug.

Why Seniors Want to Keep Driving

Seniors, including aging parents, typically like to keep driving to maintain their independence, get around conveniently, and not have to pay for public transportation or rideshares. If it’s deemed safe for them to still be behind the wheel, check out our driving guide for older adults before you hand over the car keys.

Senior Driving Statistics

Using the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database, where the most recent data is from 2020, we looked into how well older adults over the age of 65 drive compared to the rest of the population.


2022 data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that drivers 65 and older make up 14 percent of all licensed drivers in the U.S.8

Are Seniors Good at Driving?

One harmful stereotype about seniors is they’re bad at driving, when the truth is their driving varies on an individual basis. As a population, senior drivers are actually underrepresented in car crashes, as of 2020 data. That year, senior drivers made up 22 percent of all licensed drivers but only 18 percent of fatal crashes and 17 percent of injury-only and property damage-only crashes each.

Frequency of car accidents, 2020 Fatal crash Injury-only crash Property damage-only crash
Number of car accidents involving a driver 65 and older 6,494 271,209 604,170
Total number of car accidents 35,766 1,593,390 3,621,681
Percent of car accidents involving a driver 65 and older 18% 17% 17%

On top of that, senior drivers are getting safer, with senior driving deaths on the decline for decades, according to data from the National Safety Council.9 Traffic fatality rates for those 65 and older decreased by 10 percent from 2019 to 2020 alone, although part of that could be the result of national stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Year Total traffic fatality rate per 100,000 U.S. adults 65 and older
1999 22.36
2000 21.38
2001 21.32
2002 21.59
2003 21.01
2004 20.50
2005 20.14
2006 19.00
2007 18.67
2008 16.89
2009 15.75
2010 16.00
2011 15.90
2012 15.74
2013 15.07
2014 14.80
2015 15.35
2016 16.03
2017 15.99
2018 15.49
2019 15.72
2020 14.20

The Time of Day Crashes Happen the Most

Many seniors self-regulate by deciding not to drive at night. However, 82 percent of crashes involving seniors occur during the day (keep in mind that most driving occurs during the day).

Time of day for crashes involving a driver 65 and older, 2020 Fatal crash Injury-only crash Property damage-only crash
Daytime 4,652 217,263 499,163
Nighttime 1,802 53,947 105,007
Unknown 40 n/a n/a
Total 6,494 271,210 604,170

That said, 28 percent of fatal crashes involving older drivers occurred at night, compared to only 20 percent of injury-only crashes and 17 percent of property damage-only crashes.


Teen drivers speeding is a huge issue, but that isn’t the case for many seniors in accidents. Only 4 percent of all older adult crashes involved speeding. That number went up to 18 percent for fatal crashes, however.

Crashes that involved a driver 65 and older, 2020 Fatal Injury-only Property damage-only
Involved speeding 1,175 2,337 34,901
Did not involve speeding 5,319 247,873 569,269
Total 6,494 250,210 604,170

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving includes talking on the phone, texting, and even eating — any activity that gets your mind (and hands) off the wheel. In 2020, 9 percent of fatal crashes with a driver aged 65 and older involved distracted driving.

Involved a distracted driver aged 65 and older, 2020 Fatal crash
Yes 582
No 5,912
Total 6,494

Data on distracted driving is not available for injury- or property damage-only crashes.

Drowsy Driving

In 2020, only 2 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes involving older adults also included a drowsy driver.

Involved a drowsy driver aged 65 and older, 2020 Fatal crash
Yes 99
No 6,395
Total 6,494

Weather Conditions

Bad weather isn’t the cause of most crashes among seniors in the U.S. Across the board, nearly three-quarters of crashes occurred during normal weather.

Weather condition for crashes with U.S. adults ages 65 and above, 2020 Fatal crash Injury-only crash Property damage-only crash
No adverse atmospheric conditions/clear/cloudy 7,149 278,856 561,602
Cloudy 1,350 57,629 119,769
Rain (mist) 721 32,659 65,259
Snow 103 4,903 9,950
Fog, smog, smoke 76 1,414 2,303
Severe crosswinds 27 874 1,019
Unknown/not reported 751 0 0
Blowing snow 4 54 566
Freezing rain, drizzle 7 176 216
Other 10 294 0
Sleet, hail (freezing rain or drizzle) 12 0 0
Blowing sand, soil, dirt 2 0 0
Total 10,212 376,859 760,684

Although some senior drivers should certainly stop driving, as a population, they are less likely to get into a crash than other age groups.


Asking a senior to stop driving isn’t easy. You want to keep them safe, but also help them maintain their independence. The guidance provided above can be useful. To learn more, check out our frequently asked questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age do most seniors give up driving?

Most seniors give up driving by age 85. According to U.S. Census estimates and 2022 data from the Federal Highway Administration, only 34 percent of U.S. adults ages 85 and older are licensed drivers.

What should you not say to an elderly parent?

Do not tell an elderly parent they are a dangerous or unsafe driver, as this can make them feel attacked.

What is the most common mental disorder in elderly people?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, these are the most common mental disorders in elderly people:

  • Anxiety
  • Severe cognitive impairment
  • Mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder

All of these can affect one’s driving abilities.

Do you have to do a driving test at age 80?

You do not have to do a driving test at age 80 if you’re already a licensed driver. In fact, you are not required to pass a driving test to renew your license in any state regardless of your age. However, if someone reports you as an unsafe driver to the DMV, the agency may require you to retake your driver’s test to maintain your license.


  1. Overview of Dementia. The Hartford. (2023).

  2. How to Talk to Seniors About Driving and Their Safety. Direct Auto Insurance. (2018, Feb 5).

  3. License renewal procedures by state. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute. (2023).

  4. How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Driving. Farm Bureau Financial Services. (2022, Oct 14).

  5. We Need to Talk: The Difficult Driving Conversation. AARP. (2023).

  6. Safe Driving for Older Adults. National Institute on Aging. (2023).

  7. Medical Conditions and Driving: A Review of the Literature (1960 – 2000). U.S. Department of Transportation. (2005, Sep).

  8. Licensed Drivers by Age and Sex (In Thousands). U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. (2022, May 31).

  9. Road Users: Older Drivers. National Safety Council. (2023).