Staying safe behind the wheel

Driving is a complex task that involves many different skills and body functions. We need to integrate our visual, cognitive, physical, and perceptual skills to drive safely. For many older adults, a vehicle is a way to get around and a sign of their independence, enabling them to maintain their social and community activities. This is an essential factor in maintaining their quality of life. As we age, health and medical conditions changes can affect driving ability, compromising safety on the road.


So, how do you determine whether you are fit to get behind the wheel? How do you know when it’s time to hang up the keys? And what other options exist for those who can no longer drive? For those still able to drive, what strategies exist to improve safety?


There are often warning signs that indicate unsafe driving habits, including age-related health conditions and other factors affecting your ability to drive safely. It’s essential to plan for a time when you can no longer drive and look at alternate options for transportation.


If driving is no longer an option, older adults should look to alternative transportation methods such as public transit, rideshare programs, or volunteer groups that offer free rides to older adults. By doing so, they’ll continue to stay mobile while doing so in a safer manner.


Strategies to make driving safer

Automotive technologies are constantly evolving and can help older adults drive more safely. By working with an Occupational Therapist, people can have their vehicle adapted to meet their specific needs and receive training on the optimal and safe use of new technologies in their vehicle. Some training courses can improve road safety knowledge, better assess actual abilities and increase performance on the road for older drivers.


When it comes to driving, it is not your age that determines your abilities; it is your health. Driving enables people to remain connected to their communities, maintain social ties, and access needed services, particularly in rural areas lacking public transit. Helping older adults stay safe on the road is just as important as ensuring they maintain their independence by driving as long as (safely) possible.


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DISCLAIMER: Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of these blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations such as social distancing and frequent hand washing. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with current social distancing recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website