While growing older does not necessarily constitute a safety risk, when to stop driving is a decision that should be made by the older driver and the older driver's family. Since driving is such a critical form of transportation for the older driver, it is also a very difficult decision to make. There is no clear cut factor to look at in terms of stopping driving; however, PennDOT continually seeks to balance the safety of our roadways with the impact of loss of independence, autonomy, and mobility of the older driver.
Older Driver Safety Tips
- Have regular eye and medical exams. Near and distance vision is needed to drive safely.
- Aging eyes become more sensitive to bright light and glare, so limit nighttime driving and try to avoid looking directly into headlights of approaching vehicles.
- Avoid stressful driving situations such as rush hour travel, driving at night or driving in bad weather. Plan trips for daytime hours after 9 a.m. and before 5 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic. Plan ahead. Know your route and try to stay on familiar roads.
- Avoid travelling in bad weather, if at all possible.
- Avoid taking medications before driving. Many medications — prescription and over-the-counter — cause drowsiness and can affect safe driving.
- Make sure your driver's seat and mirrors are properly adjusted prior to beginning a trip.
- Maintain a safe speed and look ahead. Controlling your speed and looking down the road for possible hazards allow you to make adjustments before encountering a problem.
- Always keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you. A 4-second gap between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you is recommended.
- When driving long distances, especially in winter, call ahead for weather and road condition updates.
These are some warning signs an older driver and the older driver's family should look for in terms of when it may be time to either limit driving or stop driving altogether:
- Feeling uncomfortable, nervous or fearful when driving;
- Unexplained dents and scrapes on the car, fences, mailboxes, garage doors, etc.;
- Frequent "close calls" (i.e. almost crashing);
- Getting lost;
- Slowed response to unexpected situations;
- You are easily distracted or have a hard time concentrating while driving;
- Difficulty staying in the lane of traffic;
- Trouble paying attention to signals, road signs, and pavement markings;
- Trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections or highway entrance/exit ramps;
- Medical conditions or medications that may be affecting abilities to handle a car safely; and
- Frequent traffic tickets or "warnings" by traffic or law enforcement officers in the last two years.
Older Driver Videos
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has produced 11 videos for anyone to download and use as a tool to educate on the key medical conditions common among older drivers that can impact driving abilities.
Older Driver Self-Assessment
Some organizations offer self-assessment tools for older drivers, including this one from AAA.
Mature Driver Improvement Course
Three organizations offer PennDOT-approved Basic and Refresher Mature Driver Improvement courses at various locations throughout the state. All approved courses address the specific safety needs of the older driver by helping the older driver understand how aging affects driving abilities and providing insight about driving on today's roadways. There are no written or practical driving tests. The course fees are moderate, but vary with each organization.
In addition, under Pennsylvania law, drivers 55 and older are eligible to receive a 5 percent discount on their vehicle insurance by completing the Basic Mature Driver Improvement Course. In order to maintain the discount, individuals would have to take the Refresher Mature Driver Improvement Course every three years. Individuals should check with their insurance carrier for specifics of their program.
Contact the following organizations to check fees and availability:
Older Pennsylvanians are eligible for the Free Transit Program for Older Persons, where available, and the Shared Ride Program. For more information, visit the Seniors and Persons with Disabilities on Public Transit section of our website. You may also see whether your county has these services on our Public Transportation Services and Programs Map.
You may also contact PennDOT's Bureau of Public Transportation at 400 North St., Harrisburg, PA 17105-3151, or call (717) 783-8025.