What is the effect of aging on driving ability?

Shelley Webb
Nursing Specialist

There are many reasons that our elders may need to curtail their driving; dementia is just one. Other reasons are slowed reaction times, decreased vision and hearing, diabetes, certain medications that have been prescribed, transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes) and several other problems that can occur with aging. If your aging parent or loved one doesn't live with you, be sure to take into consideration that they will still need transportation to doctor's visits, social events and to run errands.

Not all people will experience the same effects of aging on driving ability. Common effects of aging that could impact driving ability include the following: 

  • Changes in vision and mobility could affect driving ability.
  • Medications can affect a person's ability to react to driving conditions and to make decisions while driving. People should check with a doctor or pharmacist to ask questions about driving while on medication, and be alert to any restrictions medications place on driving.
  • Skeletal changes in the body (bones becoming more porous, for example) can affect how people sit in car seats, how they wear (or don't wear) safety belts, and whether they can turn their head to see those blind spots. 
  • Cognitive changes may occur during the aging process, affecting the way people process information. This is important when it comes to driving because it is estimated that the average person makes approximately 200 decisions per mile! 
  • Slower reaction times, declining hearing and other changes can affect the driver’s safety (and that of others).

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.