How do you know when it’s time to hang up the car keys?

Learning to live without your licence can be confronting

When do you hang up the car keys?

Steve Perkin

If you are over 60 and being completely honest, then you might just admit that you’re not the driver you were 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

Perhaps your reflexes aren’t as good. Perhaps you don’t have the lateral awareness you once had. How’s your flexibility when reversing? Does night-driving worry your eyes?

Ah yes, you might be saying, but I’m more experienced and more careful than when I was young. Could that mean you’re driving a bit slower and, if you are, how much slower?

How are you going to react when one of your kids puts a loving arm on your shoulder and says: “I think you should consider retiring from driving.”

And don’t think for a minute that such a time won’t come. That it won’t happen to you. It will, and it will be as hard for the person who tells you as it will be for you to hear it.

There are ways to reduce the impact of that moment when you realise – or are told – your driving days are over.

Ask somebody what they think of your driving. Somebody younger. Listen to what they say. Don’t launch into an objection.

Check your car. Are there bumps or scratches that weren’t there the other day and you’ve got no idea how they got there? Perhaps you hit something and didn’t realise.

Are your kids reluctant to let you drive the grandchildren? Are your friends reluctant to let you drive them anywhere?

My friend Phil is 64. He admits his driving isn’t as good as it was.

“I don’t reverse as well because I can’t turn my head around far enough,” he tells me. “I rely on the reverse mirrors.

“And my reflexes can’t possibly be as good. I know this from playing tennis and not being able to volley as well as I used to because I’m too rushed… picking up the flight of the ball too late.”

Websites such as VicRoads have plenty of advice, not just for older drivers, but for those charged with telling a loved one that perhaps it’s time.

The site points out that self-regulating can result in more enjoyable driving. For example, restrict driving to times of the day and conditions that are less stressful.

And get to know how to use public transport, thereby reducing dependency on a car.

“With help, an ageing driver will often be able to modify their behaviour and gradually transition from driving to getting around without a car, rather than having to suddenly stop driving altogether.”

According to VicRoads, other sensible strategies for older drivers include:

  • avoiding busy roads and peak hour traffic
  • avoiding glare by not driving at night or into the setting or rising sun
  • taking extra care when driving from shaded areas into sunlight and vice versa
  • avoiding driving in bad weather
  • not driving on days when you are not feeling at your best. 

If you’re not sure about your driving skills, ask an expert. Royal Automobile Clubs throughout Australia can make somebody available to test you, reputable driving schools would be happy to help, and there are occupational therapists who specialise in driving assessments.

If you have more confidence, you should be a better driver. But if you are considering hanging up the car keys forever, think of the money you’ll save on insurance, registration, petrol and services.

You’re smiling now, aren’t you?

Do you know someone who had to be told to stop driving? How will you handle the situation when it’s your turn?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    14th Mar 2018
    Buy the latest car with all the safety features or fit a Mobileye to you ride if it is made after 2000...
    14th Mar 2018
    What, you haven't ever seen older people on the road who should not be allowed to drive? Some older folk still have but some are a danger to others.
    I agree with testing as many will not hand over their keys willingly even though they know.
    14th Mar 2018
    My daily drive is a 1978 Ford Falcon, modified engine, lowered etc, I "HAVE" to drive the car, there are too many distractions in today's SAFE cars, did I mention that I am 71 and used to race and would be happy to do so again.
    14th Mar 2018
    Power steering? ABS brakes? Seat belts? - We have come a long way kiddo and saved a lot of lives with new technology. You may be an excellent driver but an awful lot aren't!
    14th Mar 2018
    There are not always easy ways to transition from being independent to total dependence on other methods of transport especially in areas where there is no public transport and you are totally reliant on a taxi service that is hit and miss on picking you up in time for anything.
    14th Mar 2018
    Absolutely PennWeaver. I booked a taxi for a certain time to get to the airport and the reply was - " -however we cannot guarantee this time!"
    You can't even guarantee plane flights anymore.
    40 years ago people who ran public transport services prided themselves on being on time. Somewhere along the line planes,trains and taxis services got "attitude".
    14th Mar 2018
    i am 74 and in good health, but know I don't have the confidence on the roads that I used to. I try not to drive at peak times, at night, in bad weather etc, but it doesn't always work out that way. There seem to be so many more idiots on the road than there were, I am constantly tailgated despite driving to the speed limit. I am starting to think that at least half the drivers I see are on ice, drunk, or have anger issues. I don't have a reliable public transport system nearby, and would struggle to walk the distances anyway. My car is my independence.
    14th Mar 2018
    I am hearing you Patti, and agree with most of your comments. One of the greatest dangers all road users face today, is that section of the (relatively)younger generation, that either drives whilst drug affected; or cant drive without using their mobile phone at the same time. Get these idiots off the road, and suddenly the challenges facing older drivers diminish by a very substantial margin. Cant see why older drivers are being targeted because of the foolish actions of a younger generation.
    14th Mar 2018
    Patti & Big Al,
    Well said to both; age driver knockers should read the road accident statistic % where senior aged drivers are in the minority by a very big margin.
    14th Mar 2018
    Agreed Big Al!
    14th Mar 2018
    Over 60! I am a B.. better driver than most who are younger than me!
    I don't like driving because there are too many unpredictable drivers on the road and I particularly don't like driving at night in the rain. However I obey the rules and drive AT the speed limit as required - something SOME of the younger generation tend to ignore. As for the "slow" drivers - yes, it may be age but not always and as much as they are an annoyance they don't kill.
    There is a saying that I find true - Bad young drivers turn into bad old drivers and good young drivers remain good old drivers. Its not age so much as IQ.
    14th Mar 2018
    To add to my earlier comment relating to Glen48's comment, so called Safe cars do not make safe drivers, that is up to the individual regardless of age.
    14th Mar 2018
    What I notice Teditor in the lower socio-economic areas is that drivers who are driving badly are driving with emotion. ie I must get here by 3pm or I am really angry right now, or my car is better than yours so I must pass, or I am just texting please pass.
    The safer cars become and control the scatter brain mind of the driver who is not driving to the environment and focused the better.
    14th Mar 2018
    Rosret: when I need a car, ( especially to the airport) I use Hughes limos...they have a cheaper car, called ' Ezycar '.....and they WILL guarantee they will be on time. Never use uber, or taxis anymore....too unreliable. Hughes are also Australia wide.
    14th Mar 2018
    I don’t drive as much as I used to: retired, cost, environment etc. and this reduces my confidence because I only drive when I have to. My reflexes aren’t what they were either plus so many drivers engage in road rage. I have been toying with the idea of getting a new car with all those gadgets showing me where I park and telling me if I am going too far to the left/right. One of the self-driving cars might do the trick but I’d probably have to sell the house.
    14th Mar 2018
    I think a lot depends on the type of driving you do, when I retired I starting doing voluntary work with community transport, I was driving small buses and larger buses for outings, I had to have a medical each year to prove I was fit to drive, I know that doesn't prove if I am a good driver or a bad driver, in more than 50 years of driving I haven't had a single accident that I was considered to be at fault, I have only had one accident which was when I was parked at traffic lights and someone rear ended me, maybe I have been extremely lucky. I still consider myself to be a safe driver, only others can decide if I am a good driver, but some of the practises I see on the road on a daily basis amazes me that there are not a lot more accidents, one in particular is that drivers don't think they need to use indicators anymore has the law changed and I don't know about it? I suppose as we get older all sorts of things slow down especially our reflexes, but if everyone drove to the conditions I think everyone would be safer on the roads.
    14th Mar 2018
    I will be 70 in Jan 1919. Being driving since 1965 and NOT ready to turn in my licence. When I get too tired to drive then I revert back to public transport. My licence will cater for emergencies only. Any doctor who tries to cut up my licence will have a fight on his hands.
    14th Mar 2018
    At 84 I am still accident free and have a doc. examination each year he reckons my reflexes are a lot better than his, still do 100 when safe on the freeway. I agree that the use of indicators has declined especially the changing when leaving roundabouts also a common problem is cutting corners especially when, say turning into a side street I've nearly lost the frontend a few times to these idiots
    14th Mar 2018
    Wait 'till U c the Pile UPS, rear Enders wi Stupid UN-nec ELEC cars. Aircraft Software is NOT worth Trusing UR preci Life to due 2, Xtreme complexity. Same wi Stupid idea4 ElecT Cars; just watch a road wi Cars, ETC, at 50mph (80K prHr) & ask Ur-sefls & Others ;- do U really want, ALL those Tonne weights, Whizzg By U, on Un-known SoftWare.. Unknown bc, -U will NVR, Ever know, - its TRUE reliability, - to save (UR) life.. Don'T entertain, the worldWide, 'FOOL's Dream' -of ELECTric Cars. "Hyrogen Bomb" CAR S, DITTO. Prob NO ELecTricty avail,- to Charge MANY.. -- So ThinK, V care-fully. -- Some R, $ 80,000 A U D.. A Big JOKE.
    micky d.
    14th Mar 2018
    Hello KevinJ,

    Is your post in Mongolian version of English or am I just getting too old to understand it (or to drive)???
    14th Mar 2018
    No micky d, KEVINJ(s) comment is not in Mongolian prose. Rather, it is his 'style' and with application of just a tad patience I'm sure you will comprehend - after all, I did. Concurrence is another matter altogether.

    Comes a time in everyone's life that we'll be required to face facts and all drivers - regardless of whether former - race, professional, pile, screw or billy cart variety are generally the last and least likely to accept the bleedin obvious judging by a few of the earlier comments.
    Mobility, awareness, reactionary skills, hearing, eyesight are but a fraction of (and then only physical requirements) pertaining to driving skills. Before pointing the finger at younguns with their mixed bag of psychotropic shit ask yourselves how many oldies themselves are veritable chemical crockpots ?
    Most professionals, specifically doctors, are loathe to pull a licence and unless called on by authority to make a judgement due to referral, neither should they be put on the spot by family.
    Far too many of us kid ourselves that we've still got what it takes to get us by and yet weekly we'll see another vehicle "medical incident" smash inevitably involving a "senior driver".
    Sheer traffic volumes now suggest it's time for authorities to consider every driver annually from age 70 be required to present first for medical (when pill mix is also considered) and if declared fit thereafter an onroad test to determine licence (re)issuance.
    Doesn't matter what the basis of anyone's bloody mindedness in justifying their suitability to continue driving, when it comes down to a snap decision or instant reactionary skill to prevent another road death I seriously wonder what it takes to drive the point home.

    Mobility, awareness
    16th Mar 2018
    The medical mix check is a good idea MD. As to the rest of the annual check-up I am not so sure. First I would have to be happy that those testing have the skill to assess the balance involved. They seem to let an awful lot through with too sparse an idea of what satisfactory driving may be for me to trust them automatically.

    When an apparent majority of people on the roads don't even know the simplest things like, what a round-about means nor even seem to know what a siren means and don't have the nouse to keep an eye open to what is going on around them you have to wonder.
    14th Mar 2018
    When one talks about road rules and blinker use, my son and I followed a classic this morning, between 50-60 k in a 40 zone, no blinker use and it was a white car with stickers all over it telling us to drive safely, I think they call it a Police car.

    15th Mar 2018
    I am 75 and I'm still bit of a hoon sometimes.
    I would like to take a test just to see if I am as good as I think I am.
    My partner who is 20 years younger thinks my driving is excellent.
    Reactions are still ok and eyesight great and I love going bush in my 4X4.
    16th Mar 2018
    I don't mind a little speed either Tom though drive slower (and more consistently) than 50 years ago.

    Driving appropriately to your circumstance and conditions and environment is vital. There is a time with age when everybody will fail to do that but I have to say that for many it takes a long time to reach it and they use the roads while they learn. Meanwhile because not everybody (some oldies and large number of young ones) self-regulate we end up being regulated to near -lowest common denominator based rules. 50klms on an excellent road with an excellent vehicle where in good conditions 60 or 70 would be equitably safe in the right hands. 100klms where 120 would be similar.
    16th Mar 2018
    Please excuse any pride in the following.

    I agree the approaches put in the article can put a more palatable turn on the eventuation and if that makes key hang-up more likely when sensible, reckon that a good thing.

    My mother, in her 90's has driven everything from stock, buggies and traps, cars and heavy trucks and equipment. She seems a reasonable driver. She is conversant with the road rules, keeps a moderate pace but doesn't obstruct traffic, is reasonably confident though not too confident when it comes to annual test times.

    She has self moderated much as this article suggests. 5 to 7 years ago she stopped long distance driving (350 to 1000klms) 4 maybe 5 years ago she stopped driving to neighbouring towns 30 to 100klms, a year or two ago she stopped driving to see friends and family 5 to 30 klms and now drives only around town. Last year she limited drives to once maybe twice a week to the shops. She will hang up her keys this year, early next year or earlier if there are any health complications completely happy that the timing is OK.

    None of her family or known acquaintances have any problem with her driving reckoning it entirely suitable to purpose and as safe as expected of the general community. Her reflexes are probably a good bit slower than those of one a third her age and that could have an impact particularly where others are erratic but to balance that she keeps focus; doesn't look around to talk or check the wildlife.
    16th Mar 2018
    I will be 60 this year, and cannot wait to hang up the car keys. The traffic on the road these days is terrible, trying to do right hand turns out from side streets onto an arterial road is a nightmare. I deliberately moved to a retirement village with its own bus that goes to the shops Mon-frid. There is also public transport outside of the main gate, and one of those buses take you to the airport(melb), even though that bus takes about 2.5 hours, still I see the oldies with their suitcases. One of my neighbours does not drive and they are prolific taxi riders. Pretty sure they keep the taxi business going in this suburb. Yep I am counting down the days until I can sell the car and live a less stressful life
    17th Mar 2018
    I have been complimented on my driving -- by a young friend and also a Police Sargent who is a friend of a friend, I have been driving for 65 years and never had a mark against my licence ans I take great pride in the privilege of holding my licence.
    17th Mar 2018
    Meant to add I also have a friend that is 82 and is still winning car rallies

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