Why Does Driving Get Worse With Age?

The Physical Changes that Come with Age and Driving

Driving is no easy task, and it becomes even more challenging as age catches up. As we age, our bodies undergo certain physical changes that can make driving harder. For instance, joint problems are quite common in seniors, and they could make turning the steering wheel or looking back over the shoulder more difficult.

Seniors may also experience weakness in certain muscle groups, which could interfere with various driving tasks that require physical coordination. All these changes can create a greater risk for accidents on the road, making driving a more nerve-wracking activity as we age.

How Arthritis Affects Driving

Arthritis is a common condition among older adults, and it can significantly impact their ability to drive. Arthritis affects the joints in the body, causing inflammation, stiffness, and pain. This condition can affect any joint, including those needed for driving, such as the elbow, wrist, and neck.

Arthritis can make it painful or difficult for seniors to grip the steering wheel or turn their head to look in the rearview mirror. Seniors with arthritis may also find it challenging to brake or accelerate safely as the condition can cause joint stiffness or weakness.

Notably, seniors need to remain alert on the road, making it vital to find ways to manage their arthritis pain and its effects on driving.

Weakening Muscles and Joint Stiffness

Weak muscles and stiff joints are typical as people age. These issues become a problem when it comes to driving as seniors need to use the strength in their hands and feet to drive safely. When joints are stiff, it can be challenging to maintain control over the steering wheel, making it harder to stay in the right lane or make turns safely.

Weakness in the muscles can also be problematic as it can make it hard to slam on the brakes in an emergency, which could result in a collision. Seniors with weak muscles may also experience some difficulty climbing the steps needed to get in and out of the car.

These physical changes mean that seniors must take extra care when driving, and report any muscle or joint changes to their doctor to have them examined.

Vision Changes and Their Impact on Driving

Eyesight problems become more prevalent as we grow older. Cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma are just a few age-related causes of vision impairment. Cataracts can cause sensitivity to light and make it hard to see in low light settings. Macular degeneration can blur areas of the central vision, making it challenging to see things that are right in front of you. Glaucoma can affect peripheral vision, making it tough to see objects on the periphery.

All these vision problems could pose significant issues while driving. It’s vital for seniors to have regular eye tests to ensure that they have eyesight requirements for safe driving. Seniors require extra caution while driving during times with low light or high glare conditions.

Remember, good vision is essential to safe driving, so seniors must hold regular check-ups to maintain their eyesight.

Mental Changes that Affect Driving

Age-related memory loss or dementia could also interfere with a senior’s driving ability. Seniors who suffer from memory problems may lose track of where they are or become confused, making it harder to navigate the road safely. Slow reaction time, a lack of concentration, and impaired judgment are other cognitive changes that could present a hindrance while driving.

Seniors who have concerns about their mental condition or have any memory issues should have their doctors assess their mental status and provide feedback on their remaining driving abilities.

The Importance of Regular Medical Check-ups for Mature Drivers

Getting regular medical check-ups for mature drivers is a crucial step in maintaining their driving abilities. These check-ups are an opportunity to evaluate their physical and mental well-being and identify potential medical problems or medications that may hinder their driving.

Doctors can also offer seniors useful ways to manage the physical changes that come with age, such as prescribing physical therapy or assistive devices. Medications that can affect driving can be changed or modified, and some prescriptions can be modified to ensure minimal impact on driving.

Seniors must take their driving responsibilities seriously, ensure they get regular medical check-ups, and follow their healthcare providers’ recommendations about their driving abilities.

Tools and Resources to Help Older Drivers Stay Safe on the Road

Various tools and resources can help seniors remain safe on the roads. These resources include:

  • A walking aid or assistive devices to help seniors getting in and out of the car;
  • Adaptive equipment like adjustable mirrors or a steering wheel to improve driving control;
  • A comprehensive driving evaluation from an occupational therapist;
  • Senior-focused driver education programs that offer driving refresher courses;
  • Fitness programs to help seniors keep their bodies in shape for driving.

These resources can help seniors maintain their driving skills and address physical and cognitive changes, allowing them to stay safe on the road.

Lastly, seniors must take extra precautions when driving to ensure their safety and that of other road users. These precautions include:

  • Taking frequent breaks during long drives;
  • Avoiding night driving and driving during inclement weather;
  • Restricting driving to fixed routes in familiar areas;
  • Maintaining a safe speed limit;
  • Not using a cell phone or consuming drugs or any other substances that may affect driving abilities.

By taking these precautions, seniors can help compensate for age-related changes and avoid accidents on the road.


As we age, driving can become more challenging due to physical and cognitive issues. Seniors need to manage these issues proactively and take measures to ensure they stay safe on the road. Regular medical check-ups, using adaptive equipment when necessary, and taking extra precautions while driving can help seniors maintain their driving independence and stay safe on the road.

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