- Many illnesses and medications can affect an
older person's ability to drive safely.
- For many people, driving represents
independence. Therefore, issues related to driving are very
difficult for the older person and for their family caregivers as
- There are many warning signs of unsafe
driving. The pattern and frequency of these signs are important for
determining if someone is not driving safely.
- A formal driving assessment is necessary. A
simple road test is not enough.
- When giving up driving, it is important to
plan other ways of staying mobile.
- There are resources in the community to help
older people stay mobile.
- Driving cessation support groups can help
older people and their caregivers to cope with driving issues.
- For many people, driving is associated with
independence and freedom. The mere mention of having to give up
driving is upsetting for many older people. The strong emotions
associated with loss of driving privileges makes decisions about
driving very difficult.
- As people grow older, illnesses and
medications can affect their ability to drive safely. Illnesses that
affect driving skills – Alzheimer's disease, a stroke,
Parkinson's disease, chronic heart conditions, or
complications from diabetes – are more likely to occur as
people get older. Also, older people are more likely to take a
number of medications, and these too can affect their driving
- Some older people will recognize that their
driving skills have declined and stop driving on their own. Others
will continue to drive, even when it is no longer safe to do so.
- Caregivers can play an important role in
helping older family members recognize when it is no longer safe to
drive. However, discussions of driving issues are not easy and often
- The information in this section can help
caregivers decide when and how to have these conversations with
their older family members.
The driving behaviours listed below indicate
that driving may no longer be safe. Use this list to observe the
driving of your family member and to keep track of changes
over time. Look for a pattern
of warning signs and for an
increase in their frequency
traffic lights or road signs (e.g., not stopping at red lights or
- Having difficulty merging or changing lanes
- Drifting into other lanes
- Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Driving too slowly
- Confusing the gas and the brake pedal
- Being unaware of vehicles, bicycles, or
- Easily distracted while driving
- Being honked at by others
- Getting lost while driving (even in familiar
- Delayed response to unexpected events
- Having accidents, near misses, fender
benders; getting tickets
- Getting small scrapes on their vehicle or
- A formal assessment of driving often is the
best method for determining if a person is safe to drive. However,
an ordinary road test may not detect driving abilities that have
declined to an unsafe level.
- Many driving skills become automatic, such as
steering, braking, or shoulder checking.
- A person who appears to be driving well may
be relying on habitual responses.
- In Alberta, there is a driving
assessment that has been specifically developed for
drivers with medical conditions. Your doctor will be able to provide
you with the information on how to obtain a referral for that
- For some illnesses, such as dementia (e.g.,
Alzheimer's disease, vascular disease), driving may be safe in
the early stages of the illness, but become unsafe as the
- If your family member has a progressive
illness, such as dementia, it will be important for you to continue
to monitor their driving behaviour.
- Even if your family member has passed a
driving assessment, you should continue to monitor their driving
behaviour, using the warning signs provided above.
- You may want to keep a written record of
driving behaviours and share these with the family doctor.
- In Alberta, it is the driver's legal
responsibility to notify Driver Fitness and Monitoring
(Alberta's Driver Licensing Authority) of a health problem
that may interfere with the ability to drive safely.
- As a caregiver, you can remind your family
member of their legal
responsibility and potential
insurance issues if they do not report their health problem.
- In Alberta, doctors are NOT legally required
to report patients with medical illnesses that may affect driving.
The doctor plays an important role, however, in giving the licensing
authority accurate medical information when required.
- In addition, physicians are advised by their
professional association (Canadian Medical Association) that they
should attend to and report drivers who are potentially unfit to
- However, doctors do NOT make decisions on
licences for driving. The licensing authority is responsible for all
Do not postpone the conversation because of
fear or guilt. Remember, it is more important to avoid crashes that
could result in injury or death than to avoid conversations that are
unpleasant in nature. Here are some tips to make the discussion more
starters. Start the conversation with your feelings and
observations. Here are some examples.
- Dad, I'm worried about your
driving. I noticed yesterday that you went through a stop sign
without stopping and that you had trouble merging in traffic. I also
have noticed that there are new dents and scrapes on the car lately.
- Mom, yesterday when we were on
our way to the grocery store, you had some close calls. I'm
worried about your driving.
- Honey, I've noticed that
you don't seem to remember the way home from the grocery
store. I'm worried about your getting lost while driving.
- Dad, you've been a good
driver all of your life. Now, with your illness, I'm worried
that you are no longer the safe driver that you used to be.
- Try to understand your family
member's thoughts, feelings, and fears. It may be the first
time they have to face and accept what it means to have an illness
such as a dementia or cognitive impairment.
- In your discussions, ask how your family
member is feeling and acknowledge their emotions. Avoid trying to
convince them about the need for stopping driving through rational
explanations. Rather, focus on their feelings (e.g., loss of
independence, decrease in self-worth, reduced self-esteem, role
changes), which are likely the real issue.
- Stay calm during discussions. Staying focused
on how the illness has changed their driving will help
- Rebuttals focused on how good the past
driving record has been are better answered by re-focusing on the
illness and the present. Acknowledge the past driving record, but
emphasize that "things change," and that the illness is
changing many things.
It is important to plan for other ways to stay
mobile. Along with enlisting the aid of family and friends, find out
about the transportation options in your community.
- Family and friends – Getting rides from
family and friends are the main alternatives to driving for older
adults. However, there may be conflicting feelings of being a burden
or an inconvenience. Suggest doing something in exchange for a ride
such as paying for gas, taking the driver to lunch, making
casseroles or cakes, and so forth.
- Local Taxi Companies – Check with local
taxi companies about discounts for seniors. You may also want to
call the taxi company and discuss your family member's needs.
Asking for a regular driver and establishing a monthly account may
help both you and your family member feel more comfortable about
Options in the Community – See what volunteer and paid driver
services are available, as well as home delivery options from
grocery stores and pharmacies. Check out in-home options for meal
support, hair dressing, and so on. Information is available in A
Guide to Mobility and Independence: A Comprehensive Listing of
Transportation and In-Home Services in Edmonton and Outlying
Communities (3rd Edition). Click
here to access the Guide.
and operating a car is expensive.
- In 2007, it cost an average of about $9,300
to own and operate a mid-size vehicle in Canada.
- That translates into a total of 465 $20 cab
rides a year, more than one a day!
- The dollars used to own and operate a private
vehicle can be used to keep your family member mobile.
- A form is provided to help your family member
calculate the amount spent each year on a car. Download the form in
or Adobe PDF
- Having to stop driving can be a very
difficult time. Specialized driving cessation support groups are
available in Edmonton to assist your older family member and their
family caregivers as well.
- Research confirms that having a specialized
support group makes coping with driving issues easier, both for
those having to stop driving and their caregivers or other family
- Ask your health care provider for further
information on these support groups.
Guide to Mobility
Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council (ESCC)
- A Guide to Mobility: A Comprehensive
Listing of Transportation and In-Home Services in Edmonton and
Outlying Communities offers excellent and comprehensive
information on transportation in Edmonton and the surrounding area.
It includes taxi companies that offer discounts to seniors,
volunteer and paid driver services, and home delivery options for
Volunteer Driving Centre of Edmonton
ESCC is taking a leadership role in facilitating the shared planning
and cooperation between agencies that serve seniors in Edmonton.
for Edmonton Seniors:
Provides information about the public transportation system,
volunteer driving services and other transportation issues.
- The Centre offers safe and affordable
transportation to seniors with the assistance of volunteer drivers,
who give more than 20,000 volunteer hours per year.
Parents and Elder Care – Driver Checklist
- DriveAble is an Edmonton based company that
effectively and accurately evaluates cognitive abilities required
for fitness-to-drive. It provides driver examinations for people
with medical conditions.
- When to Put the Brakes on Elderly Drivers
includes a checklist to use when assessing elderly drivers.
Government of Alberta
- Aging Drivers – Keeping you on the
road safely for longer offers a number of tips and strategies
for aging drivers as well as listing a number of services designed
specifically for the aging driver.
& Services: Vehicles & Driving for Seniors:
This website provides links to various programs and services,
licensing and registration information and forms offered by the
Government of Alberta.
for Senior Drivers: For your safety and that of
others, as you get older you will need to pay special attention to
your limitations. This website provides some tips to compensate for