When Is It Time to Hand Over Your Car Keys?

by Erika Healy, RPN | Care Specialist, HumanaCare

After driving for so long, it can be a very difficult decision to turn in your car keys and stop driving. Driving is a way of life for many and allows for independence and the luxury to come and go as you please. Just the thought of turning in the keys can be overwhelming and may appear as a loss of freedom.

Getting older doesn’t automatically mean that you should not be behind the wheel. However, regularly monitoring your driving abilities is an important part of maintaining your overall health and wellbeing. There will come a point for nearly everyone when reflexes slow and vision deteriorates, making driving no longer safe for you and others on the road. Several factors place seniors at much greater risk for road accidents and affect a senior’s driving ability.

Some Warning Signs

  • Having frequent accidents or close calls while driving.
  • Getting lost, especially in familiar locations.
  • Feeling stressed and anxious while driving.
  • Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings.
  • Having slower response times, confusing the gas and brake, or having trouble moving between the two pedals.
  • Misjudging distances or the speed of other vehicles.
  • Being easily distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving.
  • Having difficulty backing up or changing lanes.
  • Receiving multiple traffic tickets or “warnings” from law enforcement.
  • Hearing family and friends suggest it might be a good time to stop driving.

Making the transition from independent driver to passenger can be daunting. However, retiring from driving does not have to mean losing your independence. Ease your transition by becoming familiar with the alternative transportation options in your community.

Some Alternative Options for Senior Transportation

  1. Public Transit — If your city offers it, reacquaint yourself with the public bus or train system, which may be a fast and inexpensive form of transportation. Information and resources about public transit in your community can be found online.
  2. Family or Friends — Ask loved ones about setting aside time to drive you to the places you need to go.
  3. Private Transportation — Get to know taxi companies and other private transport services that operate in your area. Taxi services specific to seniors are available in Alberta and BC. These specialized services allow clients to maintain their independence by ensuring that they have safe and reliable transportation to medical appointments and social activities.
  4. Carpooling — Carpooling can be an option whether or not you own or drive a car. If you know you travel the same route as a neighbour or co-worker, consider arranging to carpool or rideshare. Travelling together in a single vehicle can save you both money, and it is also better for the environment.
  5. Walking — Walking more, if possible, can improve your overall health. Not only is exercise good for your body, it can help improve your mind, mood, sleep, energy, and memory.

Tips for Accepting When It Is Time

Start planning for this in advance and be realistic with your ability to drive safely. Adjusting to life without a car can be challenging at the beginning, but there are so many options out there. It’s natural to feel frustrated and even isolated. Some might even feel ashamed or worry that they are losing their independence. However, it takes a lot of courage to stop driving and to put the safety of yourself and others first. If you are really struggling, you can reach out to friends and family to share how you are feeling, find a local support group, or consult your family physician who can offer guidance on this topic. Like any significant life change, this also requires adapting and adjusting to a new normal.

ARTACares is provided by HumanaCare, an Alberta-based health and wellness provider with more than thirty-five years of Canadian health care experience. For more information on health and wellness topics, webinars, and articles, visit your eldercare portal.