Mobility is a key component in any individual’s quality of life. Aging, however, affects critical driving skills in a number of ways and can make it dangerous for the senior citizen and others on the roadway if the person continues to drive. This section provides some information on driving skills and links to websites that give an accurate picture of road safety and the aging driver.
Functional decline related to aging does not affect all drivers at the same time or in the same way. Although specific abilities needed to drive safely — such as vision, memory, physical strength, reaction time, and flexibility — may decline as we age, the rate of change varies greatly across the older adult population.
Many older adults do not differ significantly in their driving habits from their middle-aged counterparts, who statistically are the safest group on the road. By improving their functioning, by learning new or compensatory strategies, or by using and training on adaptive equipment, many older adults can continue to drive safely. Providing information about alternative ways to get around, communities also can help older adults make smoother transitions from driving full-time to cutting back or stopping driving altogether. More information can be found on our Aging In Place page.
Taking into consideration how aging affects safe driving, these are the most common problem areas for aging drivers:
- Making left turns
- Driving at night
- Merging into traffic
- Changing lanes
- Yielding to traffic
- Following traffic signals
- Impaired driving (including prescription and over the counter medication)
For more information please see How Aging Affects Driving Ability on the Driver Wellness page.
In accordance with Section 627.0652, Florida Statutes, any Florida driver 55 years of age or older is eligible to complete a driver safety course and receive a cost reduction on car insurance for three years. For a list of mature driver insurance discount courses go to the Florida DHSMV Granddriver website.
The Florida DHSMV website provides lists of behind-the-wheel training by commercial driving schools.
To find the closest AARP Driver Safety Course near you, visit their Driver Safety website.
Florida Safety Council is one of the approved insurance discount courses mentioned above and is offered in either a classroom or online. The goal of the insurance discount class is to help mature drivers over the age of 55 within the state of Florida maintain their safe and defensive driving skills, obtain auto insurance discounts, understand their abilities and learn techniques to compensate for changes. Also provides defensive driving training for court-ordered seniors. More information on both the classroom and online course can be accessed at their website.
AAA Auto Club offers both in-classroom and on-line safety courses on their website.
I DRIVE SAFELY offers an on-line course on their website.
CarFit is a community-based safety program developed by AARP, AAA, and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The program offers older adults the opportunity to check out how well their personal vehicles "fit" them. More information on can be found on the Safe and Mobile Seniors Vehicle page or the CarFit website.
DriveWell is a comprehensive information program designed to encourage older drivers to change when and how they drive. The website contains helpful presentations, handouts.
NHTSA's publication Safe Driving for Older Adults provides valuable tips for older drivers.
The Florida GrandDriver Program is an education and awareness campaign of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) and is based on a program developed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. The goal of the campaign is to educate the public about the effects of age on driving ability and to encourage drivers to make appropriate choices as we age - choices that maximize personal safety and the safety of our communities.
A driving assessment is designed to help aging drivers determine whether it is wise for them to continue driving. There are a number of skills assessment tools including evaluation by professionals or self-assessment forms that can help seniors make good decisions about safe driving.
How to Find a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist Near You
A list of Florida Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists who offer driver evaluations can be found by visiting their website and selecting "Florida" in the search box. You can also download a pdf version of the latest listing (October 2014) here.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, "Age should never be used as the sole indicator of driving ability. In fact, drivers 65 and older represent a wide range of abilities, and no individual should have driving privileges determined solely by his or her age."
Since some skills used for driving safely deteriorate as we age, you may want to find out if you have any limitations to be aware of so that you can adjust your driving habits.
Resources from the AAA Foundation:
- DriveSharp: takes a unique approach to driving safety. It is not a driving simulation or education program. Instead, it’s a brain fitness software program that sharpens the most important safety equipment of all: the mind of the driver. Visit their website to find more Information including how to purchase this software program. Not a AAA member? You can still access these exercises at https://www.brainhq.com/.
- Roadwise RX: Your tool for understanding how medications may affect you and your driving.
- AAA’s Roadwise: a senior defensive driving program is an online course designed to positively affect driving behavior and help you learn about and adjust to age-related physical changes. It can be taken online in the comfort of your home or wherever you have an Internet connection.
- Research briefs related to older drivers.
- The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, Intersection Negotiation Problems.
- The National Institute on Aging has produced an Age Page brochure that contains helpful information.
- Florida's Guide for Aging Drivers has a section entitled Am I Safe to Drive, beginning on page 30.
- NHTSA's Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully
- The University of Florida's Fitness to Drive Measuring Tool
- University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) has developed a web-based version of their self screening tool "SAFER (Self-Awareness and Feedback for Responsible) Driving: The Enhanced Driving Decisions Workbook" and can be viewed on their website
- New York Times article "Are You a Good Driver? Here’s How to Find Out"
- More information on our Florida CarFit program, including where to find events in your community are located on our Vehicle webpage.