Being Realistic: When Not to Drive

By Robert F. Bornstein, PhD and Mary A. Languirand, PhD

We understand that driving is important. After all, we live in the suburbs where getting around without a car is pretty close to impossible. Still, when driving becomes unsafe we urge you to stop. Although AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety statistics confirm that, as a group, older drivers are among the safest on the road, losses in vision, reaction time, and the ability to process and integrate information from multiple sources do cause the driving skills of some older adults to diminish to the point that they must make a difficult choice. Here are four warning signs that suggest you can no longer drive safely:

  • Vision problems

    If you can't see clearly you shouldn't drive. Enough said.
  • You're out of practice

    Many people continue to hold onto their driver's licenses even though they haven't used them in decades-understandable because a driver's license is one of the most widely accepted forms of identification. Keeping your license makes sense, but if you haven't driven in many years don't assume you can start up the engine and pick up where you left off.
  • Frequent near-misses

    Are you finding that the number of times you've had to swerve or stop short to avoid an accident has increased lately? If so it's a sign that you are no longer seeing well enough or reacting quickly enough to be a safe driver.
  • Other drivers letting you know

    We live on Long Island, where honking is a sign of affection. Everyone annoys another driver every once in a while, but if the frequency of horn blasts and hand gestures aimed in your direction has increased lately, pay attention. Your fellow drivers are telling you something.

Robert Bornstein and Mary Languirand are the authors of When Someone You Love Needs Nursing Home, Assisted Living, or In Home Care, which is available at, or may be purchased directly from HarperCollins Publishers.

Our latest book is entitled How to Age in Place: Planning for a Happy, Independent, and Financially Secure Retirement, published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House.