Thursday, May 30, 2024

Too Old to Drive?


“Talking Transportation”

By Jim Cameron
Author: “Off The Record: Confessions of a Media Consultant

How old is “too old to drive”?  None of us are getting any younger, but when is it time to hang up our keys for our sake and that of others?

 “Age is a number, not your capabilities,” says Nora Duncan of AARP.  There are lots of young people out there who are worse drivers than their elders, she says, so age alone isn’t an indication of how well you can drive.  “It’s the wild west out there right now, but I doubt those driving 100+ mph on our interstates are our older drivers,” she added.

Still, some states are adding new safety checks to make sure older drivers still have the mental acuity and physical ability required for driving.  Take California for example.

In that state where driving is a necessity and heavily policed, once you hit age70 your license is only renewed in person every five years.  You have to take an online course, a vision exam and maybe even a road test.  If a cop, doctor or even a loved one reports that you might have dementia, their DMV will also test you for that.

There’s nothing that stringent here in Connecticut, but the folks at the DMV can quiz you to see if you’re in mental and physical shape to be trusted behind the wheel, especially if someone has filed a (non-confidential) report.  Over age 65 your Connecticut license is only renewed for two years and vision, written and road tests are also at the DMV’s discretion.  Fail any of those and you might get a restricted license limiting your driving.

“Senior drivers self-regulate,” says Tracy Noble of AAA.  “They know to avoid rush hours, high-speed highways and nighttime driving.”

Some of them also know when it’s time to stop driving.  A friend tells this story: 

“My son-in-law’s grandmother decided to stop driving at 99!  And it was a personal incident that made her realize it.  She was in the Stop n Shop parking lot after shopping, and she couldn’t get her left leg back into the car.  She had to wait until someone parked next to her and that driver helped put her leg back in the car.  When she arrived home she told everyone her driving days were over!”

But what happens if your parents don’t know it’s time to stop driving?  What can you do to persuade them?

AARP offers a great online seminar, “We Need To Talk” that may help you in that difficult conversation.

AAA’s Noble says “Take a drive with them and see how they do.  Look for dents and dings in their car and ask them what happened.  Everyone plans for retirement but they should also plan for driving retirement.”

AAA has an easy-to-take self-assessment quiz for seniors to better understand their risks. Both groups also offer online and in-person safe driving courses that, once passed, will even earn you a discount on your car insurance.

If you can’t drive, you’re not stranded.  Many towns’ Senior Centers offer rides programs and there’s always taxies, Uber and our state’s bus and train system to keep you mobile.

Jim Cameron is founder of the Commuter Action Group and advocates for Connecticut rail riders. His weekly column “Talking Transportation” is archived here.  You can contact Jim at”


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