When is a person too old to drive? In the United States, each state has laws regarding minimum age requirements for drivers. Most set the age at 16, and no state sets it below 14 or above 17.
On the opposite end of the spectrum though, there’s much more disagreement. Many states have additional laws regarding license renewals for senior drivers. In some states, extra requirements begin when drivers are 65 years old. Other states wait until drivers are 80 to add additional requirements. For example, in Texas, drivers between the ages of 79 and 84 must renew their licenses in person every six years, and those who are 85 or older must renew in person every two years.
Some states don’t have any extra requirements for senior drivers at all, and no state flat out bans senior drivers of any age.
Legally speaking, a person is never too old to drive.
For seniors who equate driving with personal independence, this is a very good thing. For younger relatives who worry about their family’s safety, this can be a source of concern.
Thankfully, there is good news on senior drivers. The CDC has found that senior drivers are more likely to use seatbelts and they tend to avoid night driving, drunk driving and bad weather driving – all good habits that lower their risks. On the other hand, health issues associated with old age can make driving dangerous. If you’re worried about your older relatives, here are some steps you can take:
- Look for signs of a problem. You shouldn’t assume that someone is an unsafe driver based on age alone. Instead, look for indications that something is wrong, including new damage to the car, an increase in tickets or involvement in accidents.
- Help your senior relatives become safer drivers. Sometimes a new pair of glasses is all that’s needed to keep everyone safe. You can also discuss self-imposed restrictions against driving at night, during bad weather or on the highway.
- Be open about health issues. According to the National Institutes of Health, some medical conditions, including dementia and stroke, can negatively affect driving. Additionally, older drivers may experience problems with vision loss, hearing loss and slower reactions. Medications may also make driving dangerous.
- Find alternatives. Many seniors are reluctant to give up their cars. Be understanding of the effect this can have a person’s independence and ability to socialize, and help find alternatives, including transportation services for seniors, public transportation and delivery services.
- Report dangerous drivers. If a driver poses a threat but is unwilling to give up the keys, you can make a report to the DMV. In Texas, reports must be written and can be anonymous. A medical board will review the situation.