How to talk to older drivers about safety on the road

Do you remember when you first got your license to drive, probably as a younger person, not an older driver? Likely you had an exhilarating sense of independence and freedom.  That’s one reason that giving up a driver’s license is hard for older drivers.

Worried older driver looking through car windshield
Worried Senior Male Driver Looking Through Car Windshield

Being an older driver alone is not a reason to lose a driver’s license. Typically, there are red flags such as increased accidents or fender benders, scratches or dings on a car, or a parent who gets lost while driving home.

Some health conditions like arthritis, cardiovascular disease, dementia, glaucoma and macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke — can compromise an older driver’s abilities.

But how do you know if your loved one, who is an older driver, is at risk?

Although traffic accidents among older drivers have declined in general since the mid 1990’s, fatal crash rates per miles traveled do tend to increase considerably after age 70 and reach their peak among older drivers 85 and up, according to Insurance Institute of Highway Safety data. In other words, while drivers ages 35 to 59 are involved in more accidents, they drive more than an older driver, who have more fatal accidents per mile driven.

In 2021, 7,489 people 65 years and older will killed in traffic crashes. That represents 17% of all traffic fatalities that year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency provides free information on how to approach older drivers about concerns, including the risk factors associated with various disease processes such as:

Alzheimer’s Disease





Macular Degeneration

Parkinson’s Disease

Sleep Apnea


So how does someone start a conversation with an older driver about potential safety concerns? According to the AARP, those who are concerned should sit as a passenger in their loved one’s car, to gauge reaction time and general cognition about directions and the rules of the road.  If the drive feels unsafe, talk to the person’s primary care doctor about the concerns. 

Children can point their adult parents to a self-evaluation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  You can access that evaluation here.

The AARP also offers low cost online safety classes for older drivers, which are linked here.

If an older adult does need to give up driving, a caregiver may be a valuable option.  Caregivers are screened and background checked, including their driving records, to make sure they meet our insurance standards. Typically the client is only charged the federal reimbursement rate for mileage if using a caregiver’s personal care for incidental transportation.

Some of the errands clients who no longer drive request include trips to the grocery store, medical appointments, senior centers, entertainment activities such as movies or plays, visits to friends or family and also to church.

Caregivers can drive clients in their own cars, or they can drive the client’s car so long as the maintenance is up to date, it’s safety features are intact and the client maintains the proper automobile insurance.

If an older adult is unsafe at driving and is not compliant, don’t just ignore the situation. Some families end up selling the car rather than leaving it in the driveway as an accessible temptation for someone with impaired judgement.  

We once had clients who lived in a coastal area who both had cognitive impairment. They had part time caregivers and were not supposed to drive. The couple would deny driving to their children. But when the caregivers started writing down the mileage number at the end of their shift, it became clear that the clients were driving when caregivers were not present.

Another sign that they had been driving is when a caregiver showed up to numerous dents and scratches on the clients’ car. The clients could not remember when those dents occurred, but the caregiver knew the accident had been recent. This finally prompted the adult children, who didn’t want to argue with their parents, to sell the car rather than live with the potential liability the dangerous driving was causing.

If you have questions about whether your loved one should be driving, give us a call at 760-634-8000.  We’re happy to provide a free, professional needs assessment and help you through the options.